By Michael Aurit and Kristyn Carmichael
Halloween may not be as meaningful as other seasonal holidays, but for divorced or separated parents and their children, feelings of “missing out” on fun times can be very challenging.
Whether Halloween for your family is usually filled with spooky traditions (boo!) or trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, no parent wants to miss out on their kids in cute costumes, or digging out a few of your favorite treats from your little one’s candy bag at the end of the night for yourself (It’s okay, we all do it!).
Parents can consider approaching Halloween without scares of fighting, “split-time” or alternating “every other year,” and make this year a treat for your children. But remember, it takes a commitment from both parents for these treats to work, and a promise that there will be no conflict or tension between parents around their kids during this special time.
Treat #1: Trick-or-Treat Together. True—you may not be pulling the matching family costumes out of the closet—but still, children can benefit from seeing their parents come together to support them, even if it is just for one night of fun. You can consider getting input from your children about the neighborhood they prefer to trick-or-treat, without asking them to choose. Once there is consensus, Mom and Dad can discuss and agree upon the place and time that the other parent will come by for shared parenting time during trick-or-treating. Ideally, you would tell the children together about your new Halloween plans and let them know that both of you are so excited to see them in their awesome costumes this year!
If trick-or-treating is not possible together at the same time, you can accomplish a similar goal of sharing the holiday by having Dad go out with the kids for an hour while Mom hands out candy, and then switch so that Mom goes with the kids while Dad hands out candy. It still shows parental cooperation, and this may also minimize any tension.
Remember, Halloween trick-or-treating is a brief, but memorable for your kids. As parents, you are capable of protecting this precious time by raising the level of cordiality, despite what may have been a rocky history. Let down your guard, keep it light, focus on your children and appreciate that years in costumes are numbered. You can do it!
Treat #2: Other Halloween Events. Trick-or-treating can be fun, but so can all the other spooky events going on around the Halloween season. From haunted houses and hayrides or even school Halloween parties, there is something for everyone. If being together for the holiday is just not possible, make it a point to celebrate in different ways with your children. Maybe Mom goes trick-or-treating, but Dad gets to help at the school Halloween party. That way, no one misses out on festivities. Here’s a healthy co-parenting Tip: Dad could reinforce Mom’s relationship with the children by letting them know how cool their costumes were by the photos that Mom sent him – and Mom can do the same by telling the kids how cool she think it is that Dad went to school and helped with the party. This positive reinforcement is the foundation of healthy co-parenting, and what kids need most emotionally and developmentally.
Treat #3: Make Halloween a Group Affair. If the idea of trick or treating with your former spouse and children is simply too scary on Halloween, try relieving the pressure by making it a group event. Make a plan with a group of other parents and children to go trick-or-treating all together and invite the other parent. This may reduce the awkwardness of not having others to socialize with, and your children will feel special to know they get to spend the holiday with not only both of their parents but also their friends.
Treat #4: Who Wants Even More Halloween? Candy for Everyone the Night Before! Admittedly, not the healthiest approach from a nutritional standpoint, but if you and your spouse are not able to celebrate together, try alternating years where one parent has the children the night before Halloween and the other has time with them on Halloween night. The night before Halloween can be just as fun! New traditions can be created. Maybe the night before you start a dress-up-and-go-to-the mall-tradition. Or a dress up and movie night. Maybe even a trick-or-treat the night before Halloween!
For many parents, some of these creative approaches to Halloween may be possible. These ideas may have also helped you think of your own fun ways to approach it too. And for others, these approaches may not be possible at all—just do the best you can given the circumstances.
In any event, be well, be safe, and Happy Halloween.
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