Blended families are becoming more and more the norm. One in three Americans is a member of a blended family. I’m sure Canada’s statistics are very similar. Looking at my own family of four, 75% of my family is blended because my children have step-siblings. Bringing divorced parents together for special events like graduations, weddings and other celebrations can be tricky and stressful, if not correctly handled. These milestone events stir a sense of nostalgia, but for divorced parents and their children they can also bring up bittersweet memories and trigger old emotional wounds.

Let’s take a typical scenario. Your very first grandchild has been born and you are over the moon with joy. You race over to the hospital to see your newborn grandchild. You enter the hospital room and you notice your son or daughter already has a visitor and it’s your former partner. What do you do? How do you and your former partner treat each other? Do you offer each other heartfelt congratulations or does your joyous mood suddenly drop like a stone?

Family events get even more challenging when there are new spouses and step-children in the picture. I’m sure there are many photographers who have witnessed some of the politics and power struggles that can show up even in posing for official photos. “I’m not standing next to her” or “She shouldn’t even be in this picture, she’s just his new trophy wife.” Seating arrangements, photographs, special roles and responsibilities are just a few of the issues that can be anything but peaceful and joyous.

Are there any tips for how to turn that special occasion into one blended families will treasure, instead of one they’ll want to forget? Here are a few strategies all divorced parents could implement to ensure family events are a delight instead of a disaster.

1. Connect to a Vision.

Take the time to create a new inspiring vision of life after divorce. Stephen Covey says to “begin with the end in mind.” Look ahead to how you want their child’s special day to go and how you want to feel. Make sure all choices move the blended family towards that new vision.

2. Do Some Advance Planning.

Preparing to bring blended families together definitely requires advance planning. Set up clear agreements about who is doing what ahead of time so there are no last-minute surprises. Divorced parents should deal with any issues with their ex-spouse directly, and keep their children out of the potential cross-fire.

3. It’s Not About You.

Remember who the focus of the celebration is. Always keep your children’s best interests in mind. Guests will take their cue from the divorced parents. If you think you’ll need help keeping your cool or managing your sadness, find an ally at the celebration that can stick close and check on you. If you and your former spouse can treat each other with respect and tact, everyone can relax and enjoy the celebration.

4. Be Present.

Set an intention for having a happy, joyful family celebration. Physical reminders, like holding a special stone or wearing a ring on a different finger, can help people stay grounded and calm. Being in the present moment, instead of re-living the past or projecting into the future, is critical.

5. Be Grateful.

You and your former spouse may no longer be married, but you’ll always be parents. Whether appreciating children, friends, family or good health cultivating gratitude will create more peace and joy.

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn B. Ellis is the Founder of Thrive After Divorce, Inc. A Harvard University graduate, Carolyn is a Certified Master Integrative Coach™, Teleclass Leader and the first Canadian to be certified as a Spiritual Divorce Coach. She has also served as a Staff Coach at the Institute for Integrative Coaching at John F. Kennedy University in San Francisco, CA, and has been trained personally by its founder, NY Times best-selling author Debbie Ford. Her book, The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce will be published in 2007. She is a member of Collaborative Practice Toronto. Her three amazing school age children and bouncy labradoodle dog are her daily sources of inspiration and joy.

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