Ways to Keep the Spookiest of All Holidays from Turning Into a Nightmare for Your Kids
Another Halloween is only days away. It's one of the most thrilling holidays on the calendar for children; adults typically enjoy it, too, but things can get scary very quickly without the proper planning. This is especially true for divorced or unmarried and separated parents. Logistics are all the more important when children have two separate sets of homes and celebrations to attend. While we're obviously not psychologists, therapists or child care experts here at DeMichele & DeMichele, clients regularly ask us for parenting time management advice when the holidays arrive. The good news is that two Halloweens can be a blast for your kids if, again, you take the time to plan it out and keep your priorities straight. Here are some valuable tips worth putting into practice: 1. Do Not Fight with the Other Parent! Nothing is more traumatizing for children – or more counter-productive in the co-parenting context – than to watch their parents fighting curbside as the costumed neighbor children walk by and gawk. You have rights and we would never, ever recommend that a client permit the other parent to place a child in harm's way. That being said, Halloween is not the time to force a conversation or win a battle while your little ghouls or goblins look on in horror. The best tact is to follow the Court's Order or your parenting agreement as best as you can, document everything and call your attorney in the morning. You don't have to like them; you need only treat them with respect in front of the trick-or-treaters. 2. Try to Anticipate and Resolve Conflicts Well in Advance. Sometimes disagreements between adults are unavoidable regardless of your family's status. These conflicts aren't always capable of being anticipated but, in our experience, you can usually see holiday trouble coming at least a mile away. If your parenting holiday schedule remains unresolved or unworkable, or if you and the other parent simply can't agree on this year's plan, it is highly inadvisable to zombie-walk through the year and wait until the week of Halloween to call your attorney. Summertime and early September (at the latest) are the ideal times to tackle these issues when possible, particularly since it may take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks for your family court motion to be heard by a judge. 3. Stick to the Plan… Many of our clients maintain civil or even amiable parenting relationships with their ex-spouses or partners. Others do not. This tip is directed primarily at those who fit into the latter category. You have a plan for a reason, folks, and that reason is usually owing to the fact that you and the other parent couldn't navigate parenting issues without assistance from lawyers, mediators and/or the court system. As I said pertaining to tip #1 above, Halloween isn't the time to see if the other parent is done behaving like a monster or if he/she is capable of personal growth. Follow the agreed upon plan once it's in place and don't deviate from it. 4. …but be Flexible Whenever Possible. I know, I know. We just got done lecturing you on the importance of “sticking to the plan.” Flexibility and planning, however, are NOT mutually exclusive when you build flexibility into the plan. Put another way, be sure to work with the other parent to craft a Halloween game plan in advance that's significantly less ambitious (and complicated) than one of Dr. Frankenstein's infamous creations. Your Halloween plan should be realistic and clearly-communicated with time built-in for unavoidable traffic snarls and after-school costume changes. There are plenty of political yard signs out there this time of year, too, but your kid shouldn't feel like a candidate on a tight campaign schedule. Both parents also deserve to craft a unique Halloween for the children within the confines of their respective allotted time; never forget that you're sharing these children until the date of emancipation. 5. Balance Fun and Safety. Safety always comes first at Halloween. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides some great safety tips over at its website. Allowing your kids too much leeway at Halloween to make up for a fresh divorce or in order to curry favor with them won't result in anything but more legal trouble or worse. That being said, be sure to enjoy the holiday and avoid acting like a witch or warlock! Kids can tell when you're miserable and it will inhibit their own ability to enjoy the big day. Creating new traditions is a great way to make your Halloween a successful experience.
First and foremost, everyone at DeMichele & DeMichele wishes you and yours a delightfully terrifying Halloween! We love this tradition as much as you do. That said, please never forget that you have rights and your children do, too. Even the best-crafted parenting arrangement can fall short if both parties lose focus on the children's needs (but not necessarily every “want”) as the most important part of any holiday. Compassionate, experienced and zealous representation is only an email or phone call away when your children's other parent loses that focus. If you or someone you know is grappling with a custody, parenting time or a holiday schedule dispute in New Jersey, contact the family law attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele online today. Your confidential initial consultation can also be scheduled by calling our family law attorneys: (856) 546-1350.