There's no time of year that screams Family and Couples like the holidays, except of course, for all those other special occasions where you might run into your ex, like your child's first day of school or graduation, or a big family wedding. How do you get through these potentially stressful events without being miserable or worse, making your children miserable? We've got 10 tips for how to deal with your ex during special occasions—whether you have children together or not.

Dealing With Your Ex If You Have Children

Whether it's the holidays or some other special occasion where you, your ex and your children will be together, remember: You are parents first and exes second.

1. If you're able to be civil and friendly toward one another, try to spend at least some part of the holiday or event together. That shows your children you're still a family and many parts of their lives will remain the same as before your split.

2. Plan in advance for how much time you'll be together and how you'll each contribute to the event.
Consider setting a specific time limit so neither one of you overstays your welcome or feels too overwhelmed.

3. Avoid sending the wrong message.
Your children might misunderstand signs of affection or other indications that could mean you and your ex are getting back together. Be friendly and warm, but not affectionate.

4. Discuss gift giving in advance. Agree upon how much you'll each spend and how many gifts you'll give. It can be confusing for children if one parent gives too much or doesn't contribute at all.

5. If you can't spend the holidays or event together because you just don't get along, consider taking turns celebrating on your children's home turf. For example, one parent celebrates Christmas Eve and the other, Christmas morning. That way, the kids don't have to spend their holiday on the road instead of enjoying their day.

6. If distance is an issue, consider alternating years or events
rather than having your children split one holiday between two locations.


Dealing With Your Ex If You Don't Have Children

Seeing your ex at an event can be just as challenging without children, especially since you don't have little ones to provide a distraction. Here's what you can do:

7. Ask a friend to accompany you so you have support and someone to celebrate with.

8. Avoid any public altercations or attempts to dredge up or rekindle the past. The focus of your time together at any special event shouldn't be about you two, but on the occasion itself. If your ex "starts in," indicate that, "this isn't the time" and don't engage.

9. Consider going alcohol-free when you know your nerves might be on edge in your ex's presence. It's easy to have one drink too many, and in any situation where you need to be on your best behavior, adding alcohol can be like pouring gas on a fire.

10. If you and your ex can't get along under any circumstances, then you have to make some choices.
See if you can agree to sharing, splitting or alternating holidays. If that's not possible, then one of you has to bow out. You might need professional mediation, counseling or a legal agreement to make those choices stick.

Above all, remember the reason for the season or special event and do all you can to honor the spirit of the occasion. That might mean you have to be the one to take the high road, but that's a road almost no one regrets traveling.

Jessica Zucker, PhD, reviewed this article.