Dear Dr. Jann: I am the proud mom of two very active boys. They both want to trick-or-treat with their father and I. We live fairly close, and I am just starting to get anxiety over it all. It sounds like a great idea, but a lot to handle. How do you suggest going about the night?
Dr. Jann: First, you have to ask yourself why you are even attempting this? If the boys asked, that’s one thing. If you think it’s what you are supposed to do, that’s not necessarily true. I advise divorced parents to NEVER attempt doing something with the children unless their relationship has evolved to the point that they can comfortably spend time together — then you only do it in the best interest of the children. If you get along too well, it will give them the false hope of reconciliation. If you get along poorly it will cause anxiety and interfere with their ability to adjust both emotionally and physically after your break-up. Therefore, if you’re getting anxiety at the thought, you’re not ready.
If, after really thinking it through, you still want to go forward, here are a few tips to help make spending Halloween with your child’s other parent a more positive experience for your children:
· Have reasonable expectations for the holiday. It if doesn’t go perfectly, it’s not the end of the world.
· Set clear boundaries for the place and time you will Trick-or-Treat and don’t change things at the last minute unless you can roll with the punches. Nothing upsets divorced parents more than the other parent being late.
· Don’t use Trick-or-Treat time to discuss ongoing issues or attempt to problem solve. Spend your time enjoying your children.
· A holiday, particularly a kid-centered holiday like Halloween, is not the time for first time introductions. Don’t attempt to introduce your children to your new partner or your new partner’s children on a day that is set aside for family celebrations.
· Don’t force your kids to choose the parent with whom they want to spend the evening. Let them trick-or-treat in the neighborhood where they are most comfortable.
· Be flexible.