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Melissa A. Featherston

5 Halloween tips for recently divorced parents

It hardly seems possible, but Halloween is right around the corner. If your children haven't already started talking about what costumes they want to wear and which friends they want to trick-or-treat with, you've surely been reminded of the impending holiday by the mountains of candy beginning to fill the store shelves of your favorite big box retailer.

Halloween brings with it different emotions for different people. Although sadness isn't an emotion typically associated with Halloween, it certainly can be one held by parents who are recently divorced. Facing your first (or a subsequent) Halloween without your former spouse - and potentially without your children - can be a haunting prospect. 

But don't despair - here are a few tips on how to handle the holiday with courage:

1. Put your children first - no matter what, try to remember that this is a day for children to have fun (and to keep dentists in business). Don't hold tight to a visitation schedule if it forces them to be away from their friends - compromise to make sure they remember this Halloween as one where they had fun, rather than the one where mom and dad fought and made them cry.

2. Plan ahead - don't wait until the weekend before Halloween to figure out who is doing what. Refer to your parenting plan well in advance of the holiday to double check whether any provisions have been made for Halloween (or, Monday, October 31st) - and consider scrapping them, with the consent of your former spouse. Communicate with the other parent about what you - and the children - would like to see happen. And once the plan is made, you can prepare the children and manage their expectations in advance.

3. Don't put the children in the middle - don't make the children choose sides, or ask them which parent they would rather spend Halloween with. This approach will only test their allegiance and (possibly) make them feel guilty or resentful about what they ultimately do on the holiday. Make them feel like whatever choice they make, and whoever they spend it with, is acceptable to you - so long as they have fun.

4. Consider having each parent take time with the children on Halloween - if the opportunity is available, sharing the children with your ex-spouse can be a win-win situation. Some schools have Halloween parties during the school day - one parent could attend this party and the other do the trick-or-treating. Another option would be to have the children get dressed for Halloween at one parent's house, and have them trick-or-treat with the other. Or, if the parents live in different (but nearby) neighborhoods, the children could split their time trick-or-treating between neighborhoods - with you in our neighborhood, and with the other parent in their neighborhood. And finally, if you and your ex-spouse are on civilized terms, you could both go trick-or-treating with the children at the same time.

5. Don't be scared to be alone - if it turns out you cannot be with your children on Halloween, there is no need to be upset or take it out on the children. Find a friend to share time with, go out to a Halloween party for adults or just stay home and enjoy handing out candy to the other trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood.

Don't let the prospect of co-parenting on Halloween chill you to the bone. Remember to see the holiday through the children's eyes and recall the fun you used to have on Halloween - let the kids enjoy their day of candy and allow them to create their own great memories of Halloween 2016.

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