October 2, 2014

But Where Will I Go Trick or Treating?

155039126The psychologist Anthony Wolf wrote a book about divorce and kids entitled Why Do You Have to Get a Divorce?  And Can I Still Get a Hamster?   I love the title of this book, because it identifies both the big picture concerns and the day to day questions children will have about how their lives will change when parents get unmarried.

At this time of year, most elementary school aged children, and some older kids too,  become excited about Halloween.  Though it has deep roots in ancient cultural traditions, in today’s American culture Halloween is truly the children’s holiday.  Kids love to dress up and pretend, and most are thrilled to go trick or treating or attend special events and come back with a stash of treats.  Some kids plan their Halloween costumes for months in advance, and it’s not uncommon for homes to be extensively decorated with more than just jack-o-lanterns.

Holidays are usually difficult times for families experiencing divorce, about which I have written earlier.  I am focusing on Halloween in this October blog post because this uniquely children’s holiday is right around the corner.  Here are four tips for creating a positive experience for your children:

  1. Manage your expectations so your kids can manage theirs.  This may not be the year that Mom will be able to spend hours at the sewing machine making elaborate homemade costumes.  But it may be the year that your kids have a friendly competition for who can make the most creative costume out of things already in the closets, drawers and attics at home.  If your child has his or her heart set on getting a particular costume, and you want to honor this dream, be sure to budget for the purchase of the costume.
  2. Ask your kids what is most important to them about Halloween and focus your energy accordingly.  This often requires co-parent cooperation, for which your kids will be grateful  If their favorite part is carving pumpkins, make this activity as festive as possible, and be sure to take lots of pictures to send to your co-parent if s/he is not participating.  If the high point is trick or treating, decide in advance whether one or both parents will be responsible for taking them out and whether one parent will stay behind to hand out treats.  If you are separated, decide in advance which neighborhood is likely to be the most fun for trick or treating this year, and go from there.
  3. Rely on your support system. Trick or treating or going to a Halloween event with neighbors, friends or cousins can help create a fun experience for your kids if your own energy is depleted.
  4. Determine co-parenting ground rules for how to handle the stash of treats, e.g. how much can be right away and how the remainder will be saved and distributed.  Work this out in advance so your children will not be in the middle of a parental argument on Halloween .

I wish you and your children a peaceful and happy Halloween!

Deborah ClemmensenABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Clemmensen
Licensed Psychologist

Deborah Clemmensen, M.Eq., Licensed Psychologist was a child and family clinician for many years before her discovery of Collaborative Team Practice in 2000 motivated the transformation of her professional role from therapist to Neutral Child Specialist. This work---hearing the voices of every family member during a divorce or break up, keeping children at the center and out of the middle, and assisting parents in the creation of developmentally responsive parenting plans---is both a passion and a privilege. Find out more about Deborah's work at www.deborahclemmensen.com

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