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COUNSELING TIPS FOR A SINGLE-MOM IN STEP: WHO GETS CUSTODY OF THE SCHOOL PLAY?
by Brenda Rodstrom, LCSW

School is in full swing - kids have settled into the routine, and some great extra-curricular activities round out the enjoyment for many. There are opportunities for parents to become involved in their children's school life, which is a mixed blessing for the parents who are divorced.

As a stepfamily coach and counselor, I hear many single mom's dread the times when they will have to be in the same space as their former partner. Possibly more challenging, they eventually have to share that space with the new wife. Here is one case scenario.

THE SCHOOL PLAY
Stephanie's daughter Sarah is in a school play. Stephanie has been coaching Sarah on her lines. Mother and daughter are very excited. However, as the night of the play approaches, Stephanie feels a knot growing in her stomach. Her former-husband, Charles, will be there - with his new wife. She cannot bear to be in the presence of the woman who ruined her marriage. She does not plan on speaking to her. She will stay as far away from both of them as possible.

WHAT SHOULD STEPHANIE DO?
Stephanie's feelings are understandable. It is painful to see her former-husband with "the other woman." But, it would be damaging to Sarah to see so much friction between her parents.

GETTING THROUGH THE NIGHT
Stephanie's situation is similar to many that I have helped women (and men) get through. Here are a few ideas that have helped others.

  1. Invite a friend or relative to accompany you to school events when your former will be there. The friend serves as a buffer and support.
  2. It is important that Stephanie does talk to her "former" - and his wife. They don't have to sit together, but civility is required. Children who fare best after a divorce are those whose parents make a real effort to form a co-parenting relationship.
  3. After that very difficult task, Stephanie deserves a treat! A massage the next day, a good movie, or a night out with friends.

DRESS REHEARSAL FOR THE FUTURE
A school event is, in effect, a dress rehearsal for much bigger events. The time you spend at this event is a lot less than what lies ahead. Think graduations, taking your child to college, weddings, and grandchildren's birthday parties. These will happen sooner than you think! They will be so much easier if you get used to being in the same space as your "former" a little bit at a time.

DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP
It takes a long time to get over a divorce. Of course it can be hard to see the man you were married to with someone else. It will get easier over time. There are divorce support groups, single mom's groups, and a lot of therapists and counselors who can give you the support you deserve. Remember, your well being is good for your child as well as yourself.

Brenda Rodstrom, LCSW, works extensively with single mothers, stepmothers, and members of stepfamilies. She is a member of the Stepping Stones Counseling Center Staff. She is the founder of Stepfamily Dynamics Counseling and Coaching.