October 11, 2012

Is ex’s wife welcome at daughter’s party?

Your ex wants to bring his new wife to your daughter’s birthday party. Should you discourage this?

Your ex wants to bring his new wife to your daughter’s birthday party. Should you discourage this?

It all depends on your daughter’s relationship with the new wife. To be clear: Not your relationship with the new wife. Your daughter’s.

“The bottom line is: Whose party is it?” says family law mediator Diana Mercer, author of “Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life” (Perigree). “Invitations should be extended from the child’s point of view.”

If your daughter doesn’t object to the new wife’s presence, neither should you. If you’re worried about appearances or boundaries or some other vague notion that’s making you uncomfortable about the new wife’s attendance, set that aside. It’s not your party.

It’s also not your ex-husband’s party. So if your daughter is uncomfortable around her dad’s wife, you should step in and ask him to reconsider.

“You could suggest they plan a nice dinner or other outing with your daughter, separate from the party,” Mercer says. “The wife might prefer that too. Not everyone enjoys a kiddie party.”

If your ex insists on his wife’s presence, do everything in your power to minimize the awkwardness.

“Take into consideration who else is invited,” Mercer suggests. “Maybe you invite a few extra aunts and uncles so there are more adults around and the new wife blends in. Maybe you take advantage of an extra set of hands and give the new wife some tasks.”

And remember, above all, that your child is likely to follow your cues.

“If you don’t make a scene, your child is not going to make a scene,” Mercer says. “This is an excellent chance to be a role model. To step up and be a grown-up and show your child that nothing is going to ruin her birthday.

“You have to set that tone and make sure she knows you are her safe place to come to with her feelings and you’re not going to fly off the handle when something doesn’t go your way.”

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