October 26, 2021

Halloween and Divorce

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Here’s an article by a California psychologist about how divorced parents can keep Halloween fun for their kids. I’ve shared it with many of my clients.

6 Ways Divorced Parents Can Keep Halloween Fun for Kids

By: Dr. Amy Stark, Ph.D. There are many creepy things about Halloween. Creepy does not need to include separated or divorced parents fighting and taking the fun out of Halloween. Parents know Halloween is a big deal for kids. Children think about their costumes and are excited about being someone else for a day. They are making plans with friends for trick or treating and dreaming about how much candy they will collect.

All of those plans can be interrupted when divorced parents are fighting.  Dr. Amy Stark, a clinical psychologist, said separation, divorce and parental arguments can creep into Halloween and become the focus for the entire family. She shares several ways in which this can be avoided.

1. Don’t bring the divorce into Halloween. Put your emotions aside. Focus on your children’s needs. This is not the time to hold costumes hostage, lose costumes purchased by the other parent or not make your kids available if they are to trick or treat with the other parent instead of you. This should be a special night of magic and fun when your children focus on the joy of the night and not on how mom and dad are fighting like usual.

2. Employ co-parenting whenever possible. After you have each discussed costume ideas with the kids, speak with you ex. Who is going to buy what? How can you both be involved? By helping your child dream and plan ahead for this special night together you allow your child to be a child and not a mediator.

3. Share the event if possible. Some parents can get along well enough to take pictures of the kids or go trick or treating together. If this is not the case, make sure that your child at least has an opportunity to share some portion of this day with their other parent–either by taking pictures, dropping them by sometime during the evening to show off their costumes or allowing them to talk to the other parent via telephone about their evening. Denying your ex does nothing for your child. Help create positive memories that demonstrate that life can still be good after the divorce.

4. Make new traditions. How can Halloween be fun when the kids are with you? How can you begin some new ways to celebrate that your kids will look forward to every year? If you swap the kids for holidays make sure that you still have a way to celebrate the event that you can do every year, whether you do it the day before or after.

5. Put your feelings aside. If you are not with your children, do not tell them what they missed or how lost you are without them. This does not give them permission to be happy and causes them to want to take care of your feelings. Instead, tell them how happy you will be thinking about the fun they will be having and that you want to hear all about it. Do not promise them all kinds of things upon their return to you that will take their focus off the event with your ex and make them want to be with you. Some parents actually have promised incredible surprises and ruined the evening with the ex. ultimately this does nothing but harm your child–they are a part of both of you.

6. If transitions are hard… avoid the double transition. When exchanges are fraught with acrimony avoid them. See if you can let the kids spend the night with the other parent rather than risk a fight at the exchange site.

Dr. Stark said costumes and decorations should be the scariest thing your child thinks about, not whether their parents are going to fight. She encourages parents to keep this in mind to make a wonderful memory for their children.

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