So you’re co-parenting on Halloween, the official kickoff off the holiday season and stress-fest extraordinaire for many parents. All of the pumpkin carving, wiener roasts, costumes, and trick or treating are supposed to create beautiful memories that you will capture in photos and video to be reflected on fondly for decades. But when your family is no longer under one roof, your sweet experiences can turn sour if you’re not careful? For divorced and separated parents, I have 3 tricks to share with you that will make your Halloween a treat for both kids and co-parents.
The reality for many parents, especially those pulling double duty of working and juggling home responsibilities, it’s that one more thing that may send you straight to the looney bin. Add to that the complications that being a co-parent, single parent, or stepparent impose and you now have a minefield of anxiety to navigate. Yet, time marches on and magical moments with our little ones are fleeting. So as parents, we must do our best to create the memories we can, given our current reality. Otherwise, be prepared to face regret later.
Co-parenting on Halloween Trick #1: Give Your Child Some But Not All Control
As I start this list of tricks for co-parenting on Halloween, let’s start with an easy one. One simple way to give your child some control is to allow them to pick their costume. You may have to offer some guidance or set boundaries with the child or even your ex. If a certain choice imposes safety risks, conflicts with school rules in the case of those worn to school, or doesn’t align with your core values, discuss these concerns with the other parent. There are lots of costume choices. Agree that if either of you adamantly disagrees with a particular choice, you’ll back each other up. Tell the child that they will need to pick something else and explain why.
At the same time, be careful that you’re not taking the costume choice too seriously. Just because your ex wants to allow your little munchkin to dress as a devil on Halloween doesn’t mean they think it is okay to worship Satan. Maybe they simply saved a special devil costume from their childhood and want to pass it on to their offspring.
How to reasonably address conflicts with your co-parent
On the other hand, it is reasonable to oppose your middle-school daughter dressing as a sexy pirate. While it may seem like an obvious misjudgment to you, the other parent may simply have failed to think of it in the way you have. Share with them why it makes you uncomfortable and offer alternatives such as a non-sexy version of a female pirate costume. Take the initiative to find some choices online that everyone can be happy with. If your child really wants the sexy costume, you simply need to remind them that it is out of bounds for their age.
My ex remarried when our son was still in elementary school. His new wife could sew and made our son several costumes over the years. While I wished I had acquired this skill from my mom, I chose not to. So when my son’s stepmom came along and wanted to do this for him, I was thrilled. I was happy to let our son have the joy of wearing a costume made with love just for him. Chalk that up as a “Co-parenting on Halloween Win” for all of us!
Co-parenting on Halloween Trick #2: Remain Flexible and Open Minded
For two-parent homes, there’s one home and only a couple decisions to manage. What costume are they wearing? What time are they going? And which parent is going with them? Single parents and parents living in two homes have to answer these questions and whole lot more.
The co-parent starts with the question of where will the child trick or treat? Does the plan involve splitting the experience between the homes in the same night and if so, how is that going to work? For that matter, who’s shopping for the costume and who’s paying for it? Is there a budget to consider? Of course you can certainly make the case that the costume questions apply to the single home family as well. But it seems most families who cohabitate naturally work out the division of labor and costs over time.
The single parent home has to decide who will hand out candy while they’re gone or if they will just skip either going or handing out candy. I personally lived this experience for about six years, and I don’t necessarily think I chose the best course. I opted to let our son go with other groups of parents and kids in the neighborhood while I stayed home and handed out candy. Unfortunately, this has left me feeling like I missed out and that I abdicated this responsibility to others. In hindsight, I would have given less weight to handing out candy and more to experiencing Halloween with my son.
For co-parents, the answer to the above questions may change over time as circumstances in each home evolve. This is why it is so important that you remain flexible and open-minded. I strongly encourage you to discuss these decisions ahead of time with both your child and your co-parent. This will minimize surprises and better manage expectations.
Co-parenting on Halloween Trick #3: Be Considerate to Your Child, Your Co-parent, and to Yourself
For those co-parenting on Halloween, here’s where the real balancing act comes into play. First, while you want to give your child some control, don’t force them to make all the decisions because you don’t want to anger anyone or have a confrontation. You’re the adult. Make decisions that adults should make so that your child can focus on enjoying wearing their costume and trick-or-treating.
Second, just because your family always had a tradition of mom always making or buying the costume, be considerate of what others want to contribute to the equation. Maybe your former mother-in-law really wants to make the costume for her granddaughter. Can you let her have this joy at least in some years?
On the other hand, there’s no need and should be no expectation that you relinquish control to your co-parent on a continual basis. There should be some level of compromise and sharing of the experience and responsibility. If your child has never gotten to trick-or-treat with you and you would like to have that experience with them, speak up and make your desire known to your co-parent. Raise the issue well in advance and be creative about devising compromises that will allow them to adjust their expectations and enjoy a different experience this time around.
Halloween Co-parenting Wrap-up
s you finalize your plans for this year’s trick-or-treating, do everything you can to remember this is a memory for your child first and you second. Apply these tricks for co-parents at Halloween. Be flexible and considerate. And expect to do more than your married friends have to just to create the same level of kid-parent experience. And lastly, be sure you charge your cell phone and have enough memory to save all those photos you want to take!
Did you find these 3 Tricks for Co-parenting at Halloween helpful? Would you like help with a broad spectrum of co-parenting concerns? Check out my award winning and #1 bestselling book, Combative to Collaborative: The Co-parenting Code.