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Whether your child is just getting ready to graduate from kindergarten, go to prom, graduate college or have a wedding, every separated or divorced parent has the same question: "How do I handle my ex on this special occasion?"

Carefully.

The odds are good that when you separated from your spouse or got your divorce that you weren't thinking about these things -- so you didn't exactly have a plan worked out. When the uncomfortable reality hits that you're going to be forced to appear with your ex at a child's special event, you can be forgiven if you feel a little bit panicked.

Here's how to get through these situations as gracefully as possible:

Expect to sit together

Your child will most likely want you and your ex to sit together so that he or she doesn't have to search for either of you in the crowd. Be graceful and recognize that your child's feelings are the most important thing to consider.

Rehearse your conversation

Stony silence between you and your ex won't create a good atmosphere for your child -- but neither will getting into a verbal fight with your ex. Plan a few neutral topics you can discuss freely, like the venue, the weather, your child's outfit or achievements and your pride at everything your child has accomplished. If your ex makes the mistake of bringing up something that makes you bristle, just say, "We can talk about that at another time," and change the topic immediately.

Find buffers for post-event celebrations

If you can hold separate parties (for example, for graduation), do so. If you can't (like for a wedding reception), bring a friend or relative along who can serve as a buffer. You can converse with your friend and focus on your child instead of feeling like you have to pay any attention to your ex at all.

Given that this is the season for such things as proms, graduations and weddings, it's important to start planning ahead if there's one in your child's near future. Whatever else is going on with your divorce or child support conflicts needs to be tabled during a special event.

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