Dr. Amy Stark
Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls and Boys
Food For Thought
Trick or Treat Tips for Parents
Halloween is a BIG deal for kids. They begin thinking about their costumes in September. Kids of all ages are swept away by the excitement of being someone else for a day. In fact, the energy and excitement of Halloween is really second only to Christmas or Hanukkah. They plan well in advance not only what their costume should be but also who they will trick or treat with, how long they can stay out, how many houses they will be able to get candy from and how much candy they will rake in.
When parents are separated or divorced, and parents are not careful, the divorce and the parental fighting can creep into Halloween and become the focus for the entire family. There are some ways in which this can be avoided. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Don't bring the divorce into Halloween. Put your emotions aside. Focus on your children's needs. This is not the time to hold costumes hostage, lose costumes purchased by the other parent or not make your kids available if they are to trick or treat with the other parent instead of you. This should be a special night of magic and fun when your children focus on the joy of the night and not on how mom and dad are fighting like usual.
2. Employ co-parenting whenever possible. After you have each discussed costume ideas with the kids, speak with you ex. Who is going to buy what? How can you both be involved? By helping your child dream and plan ahead for this special night together you allow your child to be a child and not a mediator.
3. Share the event if possible. Some parents can get along well enough to take pictures of the kids or go trick or treating together. If this is not the case, make sure that your child at least has an opportunity to share some portion of this day with their other parent–either by taking pictures, dropping them by sometime during the evening to show off their costumes or allowing them to talk to the other parent via telephone about their evening. Denying your ex does nothing for your child. Help create positive memories that demonstrate that life can still be good after the divorce.
4. Make new traditions. How can Halloween be fun when the kids are with you? How can you begin some new ways to celebrate that your kids will look forward to every year? If you swap the kids for holidays make sure that you still have a way to celebrate the event that you can do every year, whether you do it the day before or after.
5. Put your feelings aside. If you are not with your children, do not tell them what they missed or how lost you are without them. This does not give them permission to be happy and causes them to want to take care of your feelings. Instead, tell them how happy you will be thinking about the fun they will be having and that you want to hear all about it. Do not promise them all kinds of things upon their return to you that will take their focus off the event with your ex and make them want to be with you. Some parents actually have promised incredible surprises and ruined the evening with the ex. ultimately this does nothing but harm your child–they are a part of both of you.
6. If transitions are hard... avoid the double transition. When exchanges are fraught with acrimony avoid them. See if you can let the kids spend the night with the other parent rather than risk a fight at the exchange site.
Costumes and decorations should be the scariest thing your child thinks about...not whether or not their parents are going to fight. Keep this in mind to make a wonderful memory for your children.
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.
Psychologist License PSY7828, California213 E City Place Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92705