By: Alan E. Freed
Weddings, funerals, baby-namings, graduations, christenings, bar mitzvahs, first communions, quinceañeras, retirement parties, sweet 16 parties, all of them opportunities to connect with those most important to us, catch up, renew those relationships, and take stock of the important changes in our lives.
Milestones. That word has become so ingrained in our language that we forget where it comes from. The original milestones were literal stones, placed along a road and engraved with information telling you far you have traveled or how far you have yet to go. We have incorporated this word into everyday speech because we all recognize the importance of keeping track of our lives—stopping every so often to take stock of what we have done and what remains ahead of us.
When a family gathers at Junior’s graduation party, it’s an opportunity to find out the latest family news—births, illnesses, deaths, marriages, new jobs—and to renew the bonds between family and friends.
Children who travel back and forth between two parents’ houses have the same need for milestones as children who spend every night in the same bed. Their divorced parents hold the power to make those milestones memorable—either for good or for bad reasons. To help your children make the most of these milestones, here are a few tips:
- Stay flexible: The parenting schedule you crafted with your lawyer provides the “standard” outline for sharing the care of your children. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be bent to accommodate special occasions. Maternal Grandma’s funeral may fall on Dad’s weekend. Don’t force a child to miss saying goodbye because of an unforeseeable scheduling conflict.
- Keep your children’s interests up front: Your children benefit from having good relationships with both parents and with their extended families on both sides. Love is not a finite resource. The more people who love your child, the better off your child will be. Don’t try to punish your former spouse by denying a reasonable request for a child to attend a milestone event. It’s your child who will suffer the most.
- Communicate: Keeping good lines of communication open with your former spouse and with your children will benefit you and your children. Good communication leads to better understanding which, in turn, leads to happier children and happier parents. If your ex-partner is not constantly annoyed with you, your conversations will be less stressful. Your children will benefit from having two cooperating parents, and when you need to ask to take the children to their aunt’s wedding, you’re much more likely to get the okay.
Lay the foundation for your children’s participation in family milestones and you will raise children who maintain their critically important family relationships.