For many kids, Halloween is one of the most important holidays of the year. The child of divorce is faced with choices and concerns. Who will take me treat-or-treating? Who will get my costume and dress me? Where will I trick-or-treat?
Then, of course, there logistical problems for the divorced parents. By addressing these issues in advance, parents can reduce stress and not distract from the child’s positive experience. These include:
- In two-parent homes, often one parent gives out candy while the other parent takes the child trick-or-treating. Now there is only one parent in the home. Do you stay and give out candy or do you go with your child?
- Parents often do not specify in their divorce decree who “gets” the child on October 31. If it falls on a visitation day, some children feel disappointed that they don’t get to trick-or-treat in their own neighborhood with their friends. This is particularly true for the first Halloween, when new friends and acquaintances may not have been established in the new neighborhood.
- Halloween reminds the parents of the reality of joint custody and that you will not share some of your child’s experiences.
- In time, the child will grow comfortable with his two homes and it is likely he will enjoy the “doubles” of divorced families, such as two vacations, Christmases, and birthdays. But you may feel left out or cheated.
- Halloween is a peer driven event. Most children want to go trick or treating with their friends.
- Parents should listen clearly to what their children want to do on Halloween. This does not mean “making them choose.” It means paying attention to the child’s comfort level and enthusiasm. Then make plans in a way that can meet the child’s needs.
Some things to keep in mind:
- The child should be allowed to trick-or-treat with friends in his familiar surroundings. If extended family members want to see the child dressed up, they should come to where the child is, rather than dragging the child around and taking him/her away from his/her peers.
- It can be a positive experience if both parents can be involved with the process. One parent takes the child out and then other stays back at the house giving out candy. Unlike other scenarios, this one will not give children the false hope of the parents reuniting. Rather it says to the child, my parents can “rally” beyond their problems to do what is best for me.
- Limit candy intake. This is always important at Halloween, as kids are already pretty wired. This is especially so in a newly-separated/divorced family where there may be added stress or tension.
- Picture taking is important. The child should pose with each parent separately, again reinforcing the fact that while the parents are no longer a couple, they are both still involved with the child.
- If the choice of costume becomes an issue, let the parent who was responsible for costumes in the past make the decision/purchase this year. Next year you can begin to alternate that responsibility.
In the future, as the child becomes more comfortable in his new home and has made connections with children in that neighborhood, trick-or-treating can be alternated. There may be possibilities of trick-or-treating in both neighborhoods. Remember this is the child’s holiday. Follow his/her cues on what s/he wants. The adults have plenty of other choices to make. This one belongs to the child.
©2010. Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, is a licensed psychotherapist in Connecticut. Her newest book is available at bookstores everywhere, Amazon.com or at www.profileactics.com. This article is from her first book, From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce, which won an Honorable Mention Award by the Independent Publishers Association. To read more about the author and her work, please visit www.donnaferber.com
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Guest Contributor Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC
Donna F. Ferber, is a psychotherapist in private practice for 28 years. She is a licensed professional counselor, a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor and an educator. Donna works with individuals and in groups. Her office is in Farmington, Connecticut.