“I’m sorry to be so harsh, but for the sake of your children, I don’t care if the man or woman you once loved has betrayed every promise ever made to you and cackled over the shattered pieces of your heart. If he or she is no danger to your child – as determined by an expert – and you are interfering with visitation or otherwise trying to poison that relationship, then you are violating the greatest trust of all, which is the one you owe your children.”
These are the words of Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author, journalism professor and columnist at Creators Syndicate, as written in her recent column, An Annual Reminder: It’s Your Divorce, Not Your Children’s. Schultz knows all too well that parents who have gone through a bitter divorce can easily ruin the holidays for their children. This can be especially true for a one-night event such as Halloween, which is often overlooked when parents are getting divorced and planning their custody and visitation schedule.
Still, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, a well-thought-out Beggar’s Night schedule that’s free of bickering is probably the best gift you can give your child this Halloween. As the holiday approaches, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure your kids are the focus of this year’s activities.
- Communicate with your former spouse. Together you can make plans for the upcoming holiday and decide what each of you will be responsible for. Determine who’s available to accompany your child trick-or-treating and agree upon a schedule that accommodates everyone.
- Share the responsibilities. Decide upfront who will take your kids to buy their costumes and accessories. Find out if any friends will be coming along. And take plenty of pictures to capture the memories. This is a special night for your child, and he or she should be the focus of the festivities – not you and your former spouse.
- Make it a family affair. This is the best-case scenario – as long as you and your ex-spouse can avoid saying or doing things that will ruin it for your child. If you can both behave properly, this scenario is best for your child because it ensures that he or she can share this special time with both parents. It also means your child can celebrate with his or her friends in a familiar neighborhood. Best of all, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate to your son or daughter that you and your ex are willing to work together in these circumstances.
- Share the fun. In those instances where the relationship between former spouses is still tense, you might consider the tag-you’re-it approach. Your kids can spend half the evening trick-or-treating with one parent before allowing the other parent to take over at a predetermined time and place. Your children get to stay in their neighborhood and enjoy time with both parents.
- Split the time. If you and your former spouse can’t interact without feuding, this may be the only solution. Your kids can trick-or-treat with one parent in that parent’s neighborhood and then go to the other parent’s neighborhood for a second round of Beggar’s Night fun. This allows for time with both parents, although it can be a bit tough to schedule. Bottom line: If you can’t be near your ex-spouse without fighting, then this may be the only viable solution.
- Incorporate other activities. If none of these arrangements work, and you’ve agreed that only one parent should trick-or-treat with your kids this year, plan some other activities that don’t interfere with Beggar’s Night. Carve pumpkins together. Visit a kid-friendly haunted house. Or head over to a friend’s Halloween party. With a little imagination and some careful planning, you can extend the Halloween celebration beyond one night and keep your child at the center of the fun.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.