Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Graduating Daughter Caught Between Fighting Parents

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was 16 years old when my parents got a divorce. I am now almost 22, and I still feel the tension between them. For years, they have never been able to be in the same room; they communicate only through their lawyers. If I need to speak to both of them, I do it through email; I often act as their messenger.

For my college graduation, I want both of them there, but I do not know if this is a good idea. My friends have been planning dinners with their parents for the night of graduation. Should I invite both parents to my graduation and be stressed, or invite one of them and have the other parent be offended? -- Conflicted Daughter, Denver

DEAR CONFLICTED DAUGHTER: Start by speaking to each of them individually and telling them your desire to have them both at your graduation if they can be civil -- or even kind -- to each other. Ask them if they would be willing to show up for you in a positive way. Tell them what your friends’ parents are doing for them, and ask if they would be willing to do something similar for you. Listen to each of them to get a sense of how amenable they are to the idea.

If you sense that it will not work, tell them your worries. State that if they don’t think they can manage well together on that day, you would prefer that they not come. Then decide which parent you want to have there and ask that one to be a part of your graduation celebration. You can let the other parent know that you extended this invitation so that there are no secrets. If they have hurt feelings, it is because of their inability to let go of their issues and show up for you. You are not responsible for their behavior.

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