Divorced + Kids + Halloween = Scary?
5 Tips For You & Your Ex at Halloween
If you’re divorced, share custody, and you and your ex both want to share the trick-or-treat experience with your kids, the situation can be challenging. So what should you do for a minor holiday in order for everyone to have a good time, despite the fact that you’re no longer living in the same house together as a family?
“Holidays are a particularly sensitive and difficult time for parents as this is the time they wish to celebrate with their children. It’s important to remember that it’s hard for the children, too. It may be a time of remembering or becoming more aware that they are not a family anymore. The other parent’s presence may be sorely missed,” says Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.D., and author of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judiasm and Zen.
Halloween isn’t nearly as tough on divorced families as other holidays. “There are considerable differences between major and minor holidays and, therefore, greater stress when more is at stake,” says Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D., and co-founder of hermentorcenter.com, which helps women going through divorce and other transitions. “The gathering of family and friends, as well as the need for rituals, should be discussed and equitable time allotted in order for the children not to feel pulled. Some families split the day, others alternate years, while still others try to come together for the sake of the children.”
Shoshanna says it’s rare for divorced parents to celebrate holidays together. “It does happen sometimes,” she says, adding, “If that is not possible, it is wise to decide ahead of time who will be with the child for which holiday.”
“Halloween can be fun for all if the parents are willing to cooperate — the evening can be split or the children can go with a group of friends and, in the best of situations, both parents can come along,” Goldberg says. “Often one parent is more interested, creative or has better ideas and the specifics may fall to him/her.”
The key, Goldberg says, is the way parents handle the holiday. “As in so many divorce situations, attitude is paramount. If the parents are willing to work out the details together, how they present to the children makes all the difference in the way the holiday plays out,” Goldberg says.
Jann Blackstone Ford, Ph.D., author of a series of books on ex-etiquette and founder of bonusfamilies, a resource organization for stepparents, suggests Halloween be on the list of holidays discussed in the parenting plan between the ex-spouses. “Halloween is one of those holidays that are often forgotten when laying out a parenting plan,” she says. “Parents remember Christmas, Hannukah, Thanksgiving — but forget about Halloween, and that can really be a problem since most kids report that Halloween one of their favorite days of the year. What’s so special? Trick-or-treating with friends,” she says.
Blackstone Ford often advises divorced moms and dads to adhere to the first rule of good ex-etiquette: “Put your children first. Remember this is their fun day, so don’t lose perspective and hold tight to a visitation schedule that may force them to spend their time away from their friends simply because it’s your designated time with your child. In truth, it’s not your time or your ex’s time. It’s your child’s time.” Your top consideration should always be the child’s best interests.
TIPS FOR EX-SPOUSES ON HALLOWEEN
1. Keep children informed.
Let the child know ahead of time what will happen on the holiday “so that different expectations will not arise,” Shoshanna says.
2. Don’t put the kids in the middle.
“Don’t ask, ‘Do you want to spend Halloween at my house of your mom’s (or dad’s)?'” says Blackstone Ford. “That approach tests your child’s allegiance. Better to ask, ‘Where would you like to spend Halloween?”‘
3. Share your children.
“If possible, see if you can share the time during a holiday so that all participate. Perhaps each parent can take half of the time. Or, for Halloween, for example, perhaps one parent can get the costumes and dress the child and the other parent go with them for the trick and treating,” Shoshanna says.
4. Treat the other parent well.
According to Shoshanna, it is “very helpful for children to see that their parents are treating one another respectfully during holiday times (as always). Don’t use this occasion to reminisce about the past or say negative things about your ex.”
5. Make your own plans.
If you’re a parent who is alone during a holiday, don’t make a big deal about it or create upset about it in the child. Find a friend to share the time with. Or, use the time to volunteer and be with others. “You don’t want to child to feel that they’re enjoying the holiday while the other parent is sad or alone,” Shoshanna says. “This may create guilt in them and prevent them from having a good time.”