Co-parenting through the holidays can be easy or frustrating and Halloween is no exception. The reality is, some parents can’t put their children’s need before their own interest in making the other parent’s life difficult. While that’s unfortunate, the good news is that by following these simple steps, you’ll greatly reduce or eliminate any such effort of the other parent.
1. Don’t Go Looking for Conflict. While it takes two parents to cooperate, it only takes one to cause problems. Don’t be that parent unless you want problems yourself. It’s true you can’t control the behavior of the other parent, but you can control your own. Halloween is about the children. It’s all about the kids enjoying a once-a-year experience in which they can pretend to be someone or something else, while reaping in loads of candy. Don’t sour their experience with your own selfishness. Keep your own behavior in check and don’t cause unnecessary conflict.
2. Read Your Parenting Plan. Every separation agreement involving minor children or custody agreement when the parents weren’t married, includes some sort of parenting plan, which hopefully includes a parenting schedule. The agreement should be clear about when you have the kids and when the other parent has the kids. Even better – many agreements have provisions regarding holidays, sometimes including Halloween. So, if you anticipate conflict around Halloween, you should read and understand the agreement before you encounter any trouble. If the agreement is vague or requires that you work things out, I suggest you do so diplomatically and well in advance, only after understanding what is required of the agreement and current court order.
3. Don’t Involve the Kids Until the Parents Work Out the Specifics. A recurring fact pattern we see involving the holidays is that one parent will not only fail to review the agreement, but he or she will enter into elaborate planning discussions with the children about what to do during the holiday. For instance, a parent who does not have the children for Halloween this year may start the discussion about going trick-or-treating with that parent’s friends and their kids. If that plan is of interest to the children, they’ll get excited and then disappointed when they learn that parent doesn’t have them for the holiday. The better practice is to finalize and/or confirm planning with the other parent well in advance so the children’s expectations aren’t messed with.
4. Give the Other Parent Time with Kids if they Want It. Sometimes it’s important to both parents to spend meaningful time with the kids on Halloween. Perhaps there has been some sort of family tradition around the holiday. While such an event is best set forth in the separation agreement so as to avoid conflict later, if that step was skipped, do the right thing and cooperate with your co-parent so the kids don’t lose out.
5. Make Halloween (and every holiday) Fun. It’s your turn with the kids on Halloween and it’s your time to shine . . . or dress up like Frankenstein’s monster. Whatever you do, make it fun for the kids. They are only children once and these are the opportunities to create lifelong memories. Make their holiday special and contribute to a feeling of love and appreciation in all aspects of their lives.