Daily Press (Sunday)

Find compromise with kids’ parties

- Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@gmail. com

Dear Dr. Blackstone: My co-parent and I do not agree about who is to host our children’s birthday parties. We both agree it would be nice to have one party with all the friends and family, but she insists on having them all. She tells me I can have my own party for the kids, but if I do, the kids’ relatives and friends won’t want to go to two parties. The kids have asked to have “some parties at Mom’s and some at Dad’s.” How can we resolve this?

Dear Reader: By following the 10 Rules of Good Ex-etiquette — starting with Rule No. 1, “Put the children first” — and progressin­g carefully through the other nine, which includes things like Rule No. 5, “Don’t be spiteful,” and Rule No. 7, “Use empathy when problem-solving.” And No. 10, “Look for the compromise.” (Google “Ten Rules of Good Ex-Etiquette for Parents.”)

Parents won’t have these problems if they remove the personal concerns that polarize them in one position and use their children’s best interest as the criteria for their decisions.

Having two separate parties is the answer if parents can’t get along at all, but if you can for other things, which you have implied, using the “you can just have your own party” tactic because you are unwilling to consider a middle ground seems like a ploy to get your own way.

There are two approaches to a problem like this.

First, you could rely on Ex-etiquette Rule No. 10, “Look for the compromise,” and alternate the parties, one year at mom’s, one year at dad’s.

Second, if deciding on the location is the primary issue — for anything, not just birthday parties — the logical answer is to have the party in a neutral location.

Your home is your domain, and if co-parents are at the beginning of this journey, jockeying for position, having everyone at one home can just be too emotional.

Neutral territory means someplace like a bowling alley, park, arcade or pizza parlor. Then you can just split the cost, invite everyone because that’s how your kids have expressed they want to celebrate, and allow them to have fun on their day.

Finally, when parents don’t get along, asking the kids what they want to do doesn’t always get you the truth. Children do not want their parents to fight and they may tell each parent something different, thinking it will head off an argument.

Most parents then believe the children are telling them the truth, not their co-parent, and it starts another riff.

The best approach is to talk to your co-parent, decide among yourselves how you will handle it, then communicat­e that “Mom/Dad and I have discussed this and taking into considerat­ion how you feel, we have decided (whatever you have decided).”

That way the children know you speak, discuss issues, take into considerat­ion how they feel and come to agreement. No one is throwing the other under the bus. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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