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!
Raggedy Andy for Halloween
Tonda as “Raggedy Andy” for Halloween
Halloween is my favorite holiday. I always dress in costume even if I am not going to a Halloween party. In the past, I have dressed as Ms. Piggy, Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, the Medusa, a Cone Head, the Pinball Wizard, and stuck my head inside a carved pumpkin, just to name a few. It’s the time of year for tricks or treats. While treats are the standard fare, I sometimes think it would be fun to give out tricks instead. Tricks are not appropriate, however, in your divorce process. But many people feel they have been tricked when they find out later they agreed to an ill-conceived settlement. Even if technically there had been no trickery in the settlement process, what was probably missing from it was the transparency and education needed to make informed decisions. By using the collaborative divorce process, you and your spouse are assured of complete transparency of all facts relevant to making an informed decision about your settlement. Furthermore, you both receive the added value of consulting with the appropriate expert to thoroughly understand what the facts mean, be they financial facts, child development facts, legal facts, or communication and relational facts. Making informed decisions is critical to achieving a successful and durable settlement customized to the future needs of your family. No tricks. And yes, treats are still possible despite a divorce.