I had my article from a danish newpaper translated for your inspiration.
Here we go:
The dreaded confirmation or birthday party with yours, mine and our children and all the exes need not be a source of quarrels and tears. The Fusion Family Coach Charlotte Egemar Kaaber gives tips for how the big party can be a success in spite of family relations.
Kaaber wrote the book “The Fusion Family – How to succeed with your blended family” released in the U.S. in April 2011.
Quarrels, tears, compromise, jealousy and grief are part of reality in many divorced families when the teenager has his/her confirmation. And if the parents have formed new families, it is even more difficult to succeed. But it can be done.
– “It requires all adults around the child to consciously work on practicing inclusiveness, challenge the negative feelings towards the exes and his/her new family and decide that you will make an effort to have a good party despite all complications” says Charlotte Egemar Kaaber, continuing:
– “I’m not saying that it is easy. But I say that it is feasible. ”
In her book Kaaber establishes six game rules for the life of a successful blended family, and the same rules apply to a successful family union:
Clean up in our ‘baggage’
Define a goal
Know the pitfalls
Accept that things are not optimal
These rules must then be clarified and applied in the planning of a joint confirmation celebration, and the other set of parent must agree to collaborate. Not an easy task.
One or two parties?
By having one party with all relatives included, the child will not miss out on having the other parent present – according to Charlotte Egemar Kaaber – this is preferable. But if cooperation with the other parent is unattainable, you should clarify whether it is possible to bury the hatchet – if nothing else, before and during the confirmation party. Otherwise, the bad vibrations destroy the day for the child, and then it would be better to celebrate the confirmation twice by having two parties.
– “Often we use so much energy complaining, being angry, hurting or worse by being at ‘war’ with the exes. Difficult divorces can create violent emotions and drain our energy. And before you know it you only focus on the ‘danger’ of a joint confirmation celebration, “says Charlotte Egemar Kaaber.
Whatever the underlying cause of resistance to a joint celebration is, the thoughts and speculation about the horror of the joint arrangement will in most cases be much worse than in reality. To engage constructively with your opponent, you can ask yourself these questions:
● What am I deep down afraid of?
● What is the worst that can happen? And how can I minimize the risk of it happening?
● What is the best thing that could happen?
● How will I feel afterwards IF I were able to have a joint party?
Should the fusion parent participate?
Internally in the blended family, the fusion parent should of course help planning the party for his/her fusion child together with the parent. But whether the fusion parent can participate externally along with the biological parents depends on the ex’s reaction and also by how many years the fusion parent has been a part of the child’s life. What will seem most natural?
– “Basically I think the parent should suggest to the ex that all both set of parents should participate. If carried out, it may be a contributing factor to achieve a good relationship. It can break down some frightening images, you may have of each other. Furthermore the fusion parent’s role in the planning of the event may end up ensuring that the parents will succeed, “says Charlotte Egemar Kaaber and adds:
– “If it causes great trouble that the fusion parent participates in the planning, I do not think it is a struggle that is worth having. But the fusion parent should of course be at the party together with the biological parents. ”
The rules for the party
If you decide that you will cooperate in order to have a great party for your child, you should establish some ground rules. Do not expect that you can handle things as they come, but be aware that you are entering dangerous ground and therefore should take your precautions:
– Talk about what you will do to make the time before the party go smoothly so that the party will be a success
– Define parameters for problematic situations you will respond to
– Stay focused if the good mood changes
– Plan what you are doing, if the cooperation stops (eg. time out for a week)
– Clarify the details of the party, number of guests, budget, wine, dessert, cake table, etc.)
– Clarify who does what and when
– Be ready to compromise
– Accept that the festivities will not be exactly as you plan
– Remember that it is the child’s guests – all of them, so be financially generous regarding who should pay for the guests.
During the party
On the very day it is also good to be mentally prepared, so that you have a few tools ready in case the situation with the ex suddenly becomes difficult.
You must be prepared that both you and your ex will risk regressing back to your old roles forwards each other pushing the same old buttons. It is just as important to remember that your reactions to your ex often are an accumulation of previous and similar situations and feelings and not the current situation. So if you detect anger or irritation glooming, you can:
• Keep focused on your breathing for a few minutes, it removes the focus from your thoughts
• Take some time out by going the bathroom for a breather
• Ask yourself these questions: What is happening in reality? What are the facts here?
• Try to change focus
• Decide to leave your old role towards the ex behind and see things from the outside
• Rejoice in your own mind that you are no longer with your ex
• Immerse yourself in the lovely sight of the wonderful child
If anything – despite good planning – exceeds your control, you must consult your ex. But remember to stay neutral and don’t show anger. Be conscious not to make a big deal out of it and explain to your ex how you feel. If it is outside your influence to change what happened or was said let it go. Just explain how you feel and let it be. Then you have done your part and shown your limits, that’s all there is to it.
It is worth reminding yourself that you are not in any life threatening danger, although it might feel that way, but it is the THOUGHTS that create these violent emotions. Have positive images ready in your mind which makes you happy until the anger dissipates.
The child will no doubt appreciate that parents and fusion parents have made an effort to give him or her a good and joyous celebration.