Surviving Back-to-School Night When You Have a High-Conflict Ex

surviving back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences with a toxic ex

If you have the misfortune of being divorced from a high conflict ex, you may anticipate back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences with dread. Will your difficult co-parent snipe at you in front of your child’s teachers? Bad-mouth you to the other parents? Try not to panic! Calm your anxiety by following these tips for surviving school events with your ex.

Notify teachers ahead of time about conflict. Teachers appreciate a heads-up on family and co-parenting dynamics so they can anticipate issues your child will face and be better able to support them. Email your child’s teachers ahead of time and let them know about the conflict between you and your ex. The point is not to air your grievances, or blame your co-parent for your problems, but to explain that the two of you need to minimize contact. Some schools allow hostile co-parents to have separate parent-teacher conferences, or can catch you up on back-to-school if you decide not to attend. Inquire if this is possible.

Try not to sit or stand near your ex. Do you get wistful when you see amicably divorced couples sitting elbow-to-elbow and chatting with ease at back-to-school night? Don’t succumb to “good divorce envy” and position yourself next to your hostile ex – unless you have no other option. Giving yourself an anxiety attack or acid reflux won’t win you any prizes. Other parents are too busy thinking about themselves (and perhaps their own unhappy marriages) to notice or care that you and your ex are not sitting together. And while it’s ideal if your children can see the two of you together, they would much prefer not being exposed to more tension.

Don’t discuss your divorce with other parents. The details of your divorce are not anyone’s business. Once you make it their business, you invite more drama. The person who seems to be empathetic might actually be reporting back to your ex, or spreading what you believed you said in confidence to other gossipers. The only people who want to be in the middle are rescuers and busy-bodies. Save your heartfelt feelings for your therapist and keep your private business private. And if some nosy parent relays nonsense your ex has been spreading about you, politely explain that this is a conversation you’re not willing to have.

Keep the focus on your children. Does your blood pressure routinely rise at the sight of your ex? Do you get drawn into arguments trying to prove you’re right? If so, school events will challenge your equilibrium. Remembering why you’re there will help you keep your cool. Your intention should be to get to know the teachers, the curriculum, and what you can do to support your child’s education and socialization. Focusing on what’s important will help you disengage from your ex.

Another tip for surviving the school year is to resign your position as your ex’s Personal Assistant. It is not your job to ensure that she gets every school notice, or to tailor your teacher correspondence to your ex’s liking. The solution? Make sure the school has your co-parent’s contact info so you don’t have to play social secretary. Being strategic in your school communication will help keep conflict to a minimum.

If your angry ex is making your life unmanageable, it’s time to take your power back. Start managing your own thoughts and emotions so you can make conscious and appropriate choices. Then, shift your focus to where it should be: on helping your child have a wonderful year at school.

Are you embroiled in a divorce battle with a bitter ex? We can help lower the conflict and find positive solutions that put your peace of mind first. Safeguard your future and get in touch to schedule your free consultation with a trusted family law attorney. Call us at 888-888-0919 or click the button below. 

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