Halloween for the divorced family

Don't bum her out this Halloween.

While Halloween is probably the least stressful of shared custody holidays, there is still the dilemma regarding who gets to see the kids all dressed up for the night, and who will be missing their kids that night.  And the parent missing out can become even more bummed by the constant ringing of the doorbell from other kids trick-or-treating. But because it’s at the start of the holiday season, this is actually a great holiday to set a precedent on how holidays will be dealt with so that the kids are happy, and for you and your ex to come to an agreement you both can live with.

How to have a successful split Halloween:

–    It’s not about you.  First and foremost, and I can’t stress this enough, is that Halloween is about the kids – NOT YOU OR THEIR OTHER PARENT. The kids want both parents involved, and that isn’t always the easiest thing to make happen. Fighting about who has the kids that night is NOT making the holiday about the kids, it’s making it about YOU. So do whatever you can to come to a quick agreement. If this is not an easy decision, make sure the kids are not around as you make it. 
–    Split up the holidays.  The most common way to split up the holidays is to do an “every other” approach. One of you gets them for Halloween, the other for Thanksgiving, then switch back for Christmas/etc, and so on. The following year, switch it up so that each parent has the opposite holiday they had the previous year. It’s straight forward, even, and fair. And there is very little discussion needed to implement this plan.
–    Dole out the responsibilities.  Share the excitement by splitting the prep work for the holiday. One parent can prepare the kids costumes, the other gets to take them out Halloween night.  On the other hand, let the parent foot the bill for Halloween if they get the privelege of trick-or-treating with them.  Saving money does make a bummer of a situation feel better….
–    Plan a party!  If it’s your ex who gets them Halloween night, plan a fun pre-Halloween party for your kids and their friends so that you get a chance to share in the festivities with them.
–    Trick-or-treat together.  If you and your ex get along (and I mean REALLY get along, not just on the surface), both of you can take them trick-or-treating. There is no steadfast rule that once broken up, you can’t do things with the kids that involves both parents. Of course, watch your behavior around each other by keeping your main focus on the kids and not on each other – if there is no chance of reconciliation between the two of you, you don’t want to give your kids false hope.
–    Trick-or-treat at your house.  Have your ex stop by your house so that the kids can ring your doorbell for candy. Or vice-versa if it’s you who has the kids. This way the kids have a chance to show off their costume to both parents.
–    Record the occasion.  If it’s impossible for one of the parents to see the kids in person, take a photo or video of them and send it to that parent, letting the kids add their own personalized message.

Things NOT to do:

–    Do not make the kids choose who they will be staying with. Think about it…  By asking them whose house they’d rather go to, you are basically asking, “Who do you like spending time with the most?” or “Who do you like best?”  Totally uncool.  This puts a heavy burden on their shoulders, deciding who they will make happy, and whose feelings they will hurt. A decision like this is only meant to boost your ego, and is completely unfair to the kids. It’s less stressful for the kids if the adults handle the decision of who gets the kids for the night.
–    Don’t stay home.  If you are the one without the kids that night and know that you will be sad about it, don’t stay home to pass out candy. Occupy your time by going to a fun adult’s only Halloween party. Hang out with a few friends. Treat yourself to a movie – scary or not. Do anything to keep you from feeling sad about not having your kids that night, and avoiding trick-or-treaters at all costs!
–    Don’t let your children know how bummed you are that they won’t be with you. Instead, amp them up by reminding them how much fun they will have trick-or-treating, taking the focus off of their not being with you. If they think you’re going to be upset, it takes away from their fun that night as they worry about you being lonely or sad.  Their Halloween’s main focus should be on dressing up and collecting the most candy, not on your feelings.

This is the rough part about being divorced – missing out on important events, like holidays with your kids.  Unfortunately, this is a reality that comes along with divorce.  And it’s a reality you have to adapt to.  But trust me when I say that, while it will never be your vision of perfection, it does get easier to handle. 

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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7 thoughts on “Halloween for the divorced family”

  1. This a very difficult article to read.
    It really drives home the point that divorce is not the trouble-free liberation of unhappy adults.
    Rather, it is an unnatural torment inflicted on the most innocent by parents that just wouldn’t live up to their vows and responsibilities.
    Most divorce is rooted in selfishness, and the children will always be tormented by the big empty space where their family ought to have been.
    Sad, but almost completely preventable.
    They will carry that scar their whole lives, and never know what a real family should feel like.
    Now that is scary.

  2. Ugh! Enough with the ‘divorce is so evil’ comments, people! You have your opinion, others have theirs, let’s MOVE ON.

    One thing I wanted to mention, though you kind of covered it with the idea of throwing a pre-halloween party — a LOT of schools (at least they did when I was growing up…is this still the case?) have Halloween Carnivals, which offer fun, safe, family friendly entertainment, including stuff like costume contests and games with prizes — these are often not on Halloween, but on an evening beforehand. The parent that doesn’t get the kids on the night of the 31st could be the parent that goes to the carnival.

  3. So many great ideas that apply to not only Halloween, but other holidays as well! I may not be a single-parent, but I have plenty of friends and family who are, so I’ll be sure to share the link. I do wish that people who comment here would understand the purpose of this site before spouting off unnecessary and unfounded allegations. I think the advice in this article will help a lot of parents out there who are facing the challenge of co-parenting during the holidays. Keep rockin’ on, Wine-Country Mom!

  4. Here’s an idea. The parent who doesn’t have the kids that night can actually…wait for it…go out and have fun! I know, it is SO hard to not be with your child for a single night. Come on! Way to be over dramatic about a goofy holiday. I can just imagine some single mom staying home on Halloween sobbing in between chewing her mouthfuls of “fun size” Baby Ruths, Snickers and Milky Ways. Bahahaha!

    And Skippy: Wow. Just, wow. You don’t get out much, do you?

    What’s with the extremism going on here?

  5. No extremism is required to be saddened by the terrible price litle kids pay for their parents’ “pursuit of happiness”.
    Divorce was sold to us as non-problem for the kids-they’ll be happier in a house without Mom & Dad fighting all the time.
    Well, “they” were wrong. Again.
    Self-fulfillment is swell when you’re single.
    Once the children are born a parents’ life and lifestyle should be based on what is best for those kids, not for the “I-wanna-be-an-irresponsible-teenager-again” crowd.
    Every single divorce I know of was executed to make the parents happy.
    The kids be damned-they’ll adjust.
    An American Tragedy.

  6. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, addiction, extramarital affairs… I suppose these are also afflictions in a marriage that kids would be better off living WITH rather than the sad state of becoming a child of divorce…. There are a lot of judgments and assumptions being made regarding why people get divorced, Skippy – as if it’s an easy decision to be made.

    And yes, Vince, my absolute best advice is to enjoy yourself as a solo adult on a night free from parenting if they are given that opportunity. But for the newly divorced who might be coming upon the holidays and facing not being with their kids for the first time, this is just the beginning of what might be a hard time of year.

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