The evening of October 31st is one of the most child-centered times on the calendar. “Trick or Treat” is a question, not a statement. A choice needs to be made.
This Halloween, the Kids First Center encourages you to choose “Treat” and make this time a positive memory for your children. This is entirely doable even if your family is in the throes of a divorce and separation. Asking children to wait to enjoy the experiences of childhood until we feel better is the “trick” choice. Ultimately, kids will remember positive family interactions and not the candy or the costume!
As with many aspects of divorce and separation, creating a positive environment for kids-to-be-kids is often easier said than done. This is especially true if your co-parenting plan divides holidays such that you will not see your children on child-important days such as Halloween. It is important not to make your children feel guilty if they do not see you since likely, they were not given a choice to pick “odd” or “even” years. Indeed, from a child’s perspective this “adult solution” is less than satisfying.
While such arrangements may be necessary, there are things you can do immediately regardless of the schedule to maximize Halloween as a child-centered experience for the little ghosts, princes and princesses, and super-heroes. The Kids First Center has worked with thousands of parents and children over the years and these things work for children!
• Consider a joint activity outside of Halloween night that both parents attend with kids such as a haunted hayride, corn maze, or family costume party.
• Make choosing the costume a family event with both parents participating regardless of where the children are on Halloween night and let the costume go freely between households.
• If possible, accompany your children “trick or treating” together. Children feel more secure and safe in their place in the family if they have permission to be in the presence of both mom and dad without fear of conflict.
• Decide in advance together where kids will “Trick or Treat” and who they will visit. Maximize children visiting family and friends on “both sides” regardless of who is “assigned” Halloween this year. Always remember, ending your relationship does not terminate the bonds and connections your children have with all their extended family and friends who dearly want to see them in their costumes.
• If arrangements cannot be made to accompany kids together, take lots of photos and videos and share them with the other parent in real time. Make sure your children know you are doing this and that it is important to YOU that their other parent is as involved in the experience as you are.
• Decide in advance the rules (if any) around keeping and eating candy. It is especially fun for kids to be able to share with a parent some of the “haul” if that parent was unable to participate in the collection. Be mindful that children enjoy sharing as much as receiving, especially if it is with their parents.
• You can step this idea up further by making sure that as a parent you guide them to the other parent’s favorites and have an open discussion about past happy experiences when together.
• Purposefully include extended and new family members for more fun. This is purely a kid’s holiday!
Have a Happy Halloween!
“I learned how important our behavior (verbal and non-verbal) is, and how it impacts our children. How I can rise above all issues, and just focus on my babies.”
“What I learned was that the best thing I can do for my kids is to say something good about their other parent!”
“I appreciated the focus on how many different relationships my/our kids are dealing with.”
“I learned I am in control of my behavior; I can’t control my co-parent!”
“I received validation; it helped to know that I’m not alone. I appreciated the section on preparing for court – that is coming up soon and I am scared.”