Allowing Celebration to Bridge Two Houses

Celebrations are important for families, but they can sometimes be difficult to manage after divorce.When celebrating achievements and milestones, we often turn to family to share in our joy. After a divorce or separation, celebrating your child’s achievements as a family can at times feel forced, as it often brings co-parents back together when tensions may still be running high.

It may not be realistic to expect these celebrations—the many graduations, concerts, and religious ceremonies—to feel exactly as they used to feel, especially if they occur soon after a divorce. Even smaller celebrations in every-day achievements—improved report cards, a masterful pancake flip, or perfectly-balanced finger-painting—will often be contained to a single household, enjoyed solely by one parent and unable to make the trek between two houses.

Celebrations of all scopes are integral to family connections, especially if children are living in two houses. If you're looking for ways to invite celebration back into your routine after a divorce, here are 3 things to consider.

Celebrations, big and small

When we think of celebrations, many of us think of life's more momentous milestones. Marking important achievements with parties and get-togethers will always have a place in family histories, but we often take for granted the smaller moments of celebration we engage in daily. As children grow, achievements come in all sizes. As a parent, you get to experience the private achievements that aren't on display for the public. Nailing a piano piece, baking their first unburnt batch of cookies, and other low-key achievements can be celebrated with a warm hug or an exuberant high-five. But after a divorce, you may feel the absence of these little joys when your child is with your co-parent.

You may find that sharing the smaller moments is more difficult than joining together for your child's milestones. Big events can sometimes cushion tension between co-parents because they are often public affairs. It can be easier to avoid conflict when performing best behaviours for other parents or extended family members.

But sharing everyday achievements requires co-parents to communicate directly with each other. Reaching out in this way necessitates that co-parents recognize that rejoicing in their children should be an interaction kept separate from other tensions that could be causing conflict. Using a neutral platform that separates different categories of communication can help co-parents share moments like this.

Involve Your Child

Children may also be mourning the absence of their other parent when celebrating both minor and major accomplishments. Where before they could turn to both parents and share their joy, they may not have that same opportunity when living in two houses.

When conflict occurs between co-parents, children may feel that they shouldn't speak of one parent when in the company of the other. Unfortunately, this can mean that children do not feel comfortable sharing something joyous that occurred while they were with the other parent. Counteract this presumption from the get-go. If your child shares a happy story from their time with their other parent, engage with them as you would with any other story. If your co-parent shares a funny moment from their time together, ask your child to tell you in their own words. Seeing that you want to hear when they have a good time with your co-parent will allow your children to feel comfortable about sharing happy moments with you.

Start Small

Participating in larger, joint-celebrations may be out of reach for you and your co-parent if your divorce is recent. When inviting everyday celebration back into your life, it's ok to start small with the occasional picture or short anecdote. Staying well within your comfort zone when it comes to 'non-essential' communication with your co-parent can sometimes be the best route if your shared parenting is off to a rocky start.

When you're ready to begin sharing in the smaller scope of everyday celebrations with your co-parent, begin by sharing in a manner that doesn't derail other communication efforts. The journal on OurFamilyWizard is just one example of a tool that can help parents compartmentalize different aspects of their co-parenting communication. Sharing a moment alongside discussions of scheduling or shared expenses may feel inappropriate, so having a separate place where you and your co-parent can enter such details can help.

Welcoming celebration back into your life after a divorce will mean celebrating moments, big and small, whether they happen when your child is with you or your co-parent. Acclimating to no longer seeing your child every day may seem an impossible task, but being able to take joy in ordinary achievements with your child when you are with them will ease the way.