Trick-or-Treating on Halloween is usually one of the uncomplicated joys of childhood. However, when parents are divorced or are separating, what was once a simple and joyful night can become a nightmare for kids as they are pulled between parents, neighborhoods and friends. When parents are getting divorced and discussing their custody and visitation schedule, they often do not spend a great deal of time discussing how they will handle celebrating Halloween as their family goes forward in two separate households. This is often a big mistake and can cause unnecessary difficulty for your children. Halloween is a holiday more than almost any other that is all about the kids so putting a little extra thought into how to make the holiday work for them can keep this from being a scary night for your kids.
By far the most common Halloween schedule that I see parents agree to when discussing holiday visitation is to alternate the holiday. In other words, one parent will have the children for Halloween in even numbered years and the other parent will have them for the holiday in odd numbered years. Although this is the most common default, it usually ends up with the least successful result for children. This is because Halloween isn’t just about dressing up for kids, which they can do with either parent, but also is a social time for them where they see friends, neighbors, family and others when they are out trick-or-treating. When only one parent is able to participate with the children each year, the other parent is left entirely out of the equation for the kids. They don’t get to show that parent their costume, they don’t get to interact with that parent and their friends and neighbors. They also usually do not have any continuity year to year because they are trick-or-treating in different neighborhoods each year as they alternate between Mom’s house and Dad’s house. Although this alternating year schedule may have the desired effect of allowing the parents to avoid one another, it may not be the best solution for your children who want to share this fun holiday with both their parents.
There are three other possible solutions that I have seen parents implement that seem to much more effectively address Halloween for young children.
1. Trick-or-Treat as a Family
I have had families agree that they will join together and trick-or-treat as a family each year. This obviously takes a degree of cooperation on the part of the parents but for children this can be ideal. As long as Mom and Dad can behave appropriately and not let their proximity result in emotional displays that are not in the children’s best interests, this co-parenting model provides the children with what they desire on this fun night – they get the attention of both parents and are able to have continuity in celebrating with their usual friends in their neighborhood as they have in the past. Even if this is not a feasible plan for the long-term, it can be very helpful for parents to trick-or-treat together for at least the first Halloween with the children to allow them some time and space to acclimate to the new dynamic of their family. A longer lasting benefit of this arrangement is that parents are able to show their children that in the ways that count, they are still a family and Mom and Dad are able to work together to put them first.
2. Share the Trick-or-Treating
When the situation is tense or difficult for the parents to contemplate trick-or-treating together, they can often still agree to share the trick-or-treating in a way that their children still get the benefit of interacting with both of their parents on this fun evening while still keeping some distance between the parents. In this scenario, the children will begin the evening trick-or-treating with one parent and will meet up with the other parent at a pre-arranged time or place to switch to the other parent. Although the parents do not go around the neighborhood together, under this arrangement, the children stay in their usual environs with their friends and are still able to enjoy time with both of their parents. This can take some extra effort to coordinate the evening but the benefits for the children are likely worth it.
3. Split the Trick-or-Treating
Finally, when it is really the best for the parents to keep their interaction to an absolute minimum, splitting the trick-or-treating time can be an effective solution. In this case, the children will trick-or-treat with one parent in that parent’s neighborhood and will then go to the other parent’s neighborhood to trick-or-treat with them. For kids, this can be the best of both worlds. They get both parents and double the candy. They also have the continuity of their friends and customary neighborhood but get the fun of exploring a new neighborhood under fun and exciting circumstances. Most importantly, they also can become more accustomed to the concept of two separate households for their parents but experience that their parents can be flexible to accommodate them in both.
All in all, when parents put extra time and energy into crafting a well thought out Halloween visitation schedule it is the best treat of all for their children – a happy, kid-focused holiday with both of their parents.