Your child’s teachers and advisors have a job to do. They educate, guide, discipline and care for your child (among numerous other responsibilities). If you bring your personal problems with your ex into their domain, you seriously compromise their ability to do their job. Guess who suffers when that happens – that’s right, your child.
When my daughter was in Kindergarten, the school guidance counselor called a meeting with us to discuss my daughter’s attitude during school. She had gone through a change in behavior after coming back from Winter break. She didn’t want to go to school and was very clingy and whiny.
It’s important to note this was very soon after our divorce, so her Mom and I weren’t exactly on the best of terms. In fact, we argued pretty much non-stop.
Her Mom and I met with the counselor and talked it through for about 30 minutes. Through that conversation, we determined our 6 year old daughter was simply having trouble adjusting after such a long break and spending all day with her Mommy or Daddy. Sure enough, she found her groove within another week or so, and everything was fine after that.
Thirty minutes doesn’t sound very long for that kind of meeting. I’d like to think we were simply efficient. By that I mean we didn’t waste any time arguing with each other. We listened to the counselor’s observations and spent no time blaming each other in an effort to portray the other parent as the one who did something to cause our child’s behavior.
In fact, we deferred to each other many times through the meeting.
“She’s been fussy in the mornings and doesn’t want to go to school. Does she do the same thing at your house?”
“Yes, she’s doing the same thing at my house. She even gets upset before bedtime.”
“Does she give you a reason why? I haven’t been able to get a reason out of her.”
“Nothing specific. She just says she doesn’t want to go to school.”
“Do you have any ideas on how we might get to the root of the problem?”
The counselor watched us dialogue while also directing the conversation. All three of us calmly discussed what we were seeing and any ideas for what might be causing our baby distress. In the end, the counselor concluded there were no critical issues and we just needed to continue to support our girl and help her re-establish her routine for the semester.
We thanked our counselor for her proactive support and for caring about our child. Then, SHE THANKED US. What???
She complemented us on working well together and keeping our daughter as our number one priority. She was genuinely surprised at how well the meeting went. I could only imagine what behavior she’d witnessed between other co-parents. She must have seen some tough situations for her to thank us the way she did. It felt strange – kind of like being rewarded for something you’re supposed to do. (I resisted inserting a Chris Rock meme here)
School will force you to deal with your spouse in front her teachers, counselors, peers and their families. There is no way around it. There are parent-teacher conferences, school assemblies, award ceremonies, fund raisers, volunteer opportunities, book fairs, field trips, parents’ day, grandparents’ day, and the list goes on. And that’s just elementary! I haven’t even made it to middle school with my girl yet.
If you don’t put aside your personal problems with your co-parent during these situations, you’re going to embarrass not only yourself but your child. Do it enough times, and she’s going to develop a fear of her parents ruining the great times and opportunities she’ll have at school. She won’t want either one of you there.
Kids have it hard enough. If you and your ex also act like children, you’re only making it harder.
You can read about previous Co-Parenting Landmines here: