I'm only now beginning to appreciate the effect divorce has on the children involved. The parents openly dislike each other and talk about it to their friends, lawyers, and associates. The kids, who can they talk to? Who will listen to their side? To whom can they vent? Do they even know the nature of the divorce in the first place? They didn't ask for it, it was thrust upon them by people they deeply love and trusted.
We've seen many examples, mostly bad, of divorced parents butting heads years and marriages after their separation. Usually the children are in the mix, probably as young adults. It's as if time makes things go fungus; the bitterness of the divorce never ends; forgiveness seems impossible.
When exes don't get along, the kids don't always know what to do. Let's say there's a big event coming up, like an engagement or a major holiday party. Whom do you invite, knowing that if one parent is coming, the other won't? It's a serious quandary that has the potential of hurting feelings of those left out. And what about events planned by others? Like showers or a surprise birthday?
Making matters worse, the kids tend to be quiet and not express their frustration with the situation. And the parents, who don't get along, don't understand the difficulties their children are having sorting out each situation.
Several ideas come to mind that may smooth out these situations. First, is the gathering big or small? Large gatherings make it easier for hostile parents to avoid each other, a huge family reunion being a good example. Small intimate parties are not good, so a baby shower with only six or eight invitees is fraught with danger. Better have two showers (or see point two below).
Second, parents need to realize the overall difficulties and communicate with the children on their druthers. For example, tell the kids to invite you to everything but to let you know if the other parents are invited or plan to attend. This way you can choose to go or not, with no surprise ending.
Third, bury the hatchet for the sake of the kids. As the kids get older this becomes more and more difficult. The kids have learned to adjust to the difficulties and perhaps have even taken sides, or at least appear to have done so. So the hatchet burying involves more than just the ex, but some kids also. If you've remarried, this hatchet burying takes on more complications because your spouse may be involved - asking where you'd like the hatchet buried (school humor). I have no suggestions here because there are no approved solutions to this problem.
Fourth, what are the travel times for those involved? Folks four hours away or longer need more consideration, particularly as they get older. Leg circulation and blood clots are big issues when traveling to the point that many sources recommend stopping every hour to an hour and a half to get some exercise. Kathy and I have to do this to avoid severe leg pain.
Finally, pray about the situations. In reality, this should come first on the list.
We know a divorced couple who are doing it right. They have a 10th grader who is a potential student athlete at the next level. The whole focus of their relationship is their son, his welfare, his education, and his future. I think they took the bury the hatchet approach because they show no outward animosity or vindictiveness toward each other and are living separate lives, except where their son is involved. I don't know much more except that they are both practicing Christians, it's working for them, and their son is reaping the benefits.
So what's my point? It can be done. Some divorced parents are making it work. If you are in one of these situations, I hope this helps overcome difficulties. My motto at school: It's all about the kids. That works here, too.
Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA.