By Richard “RJ” Jaramillo
Founder of SingleDad.com
For most newly divorced dads, this is the first holiday of the school season where you realize you may not participate in your child’s Halloween activities. A feeling of guilt or anxiety by all family members is normal because of the change and transition that the family is going through the first year.
Every parent wants to make their child happy, but they also have to communicate their new life boundaries. There is an important balance on respecting your new role and everybody enjoying Halloween.
SingleDad is going to offer you 3 basic tips on how to make it work this year.
Tip #1: Communicate a Game Plan With Your Ex
If most of your current conversations are beginning and ending in arguing, I would suggest that you keep to your schedule this holiday and skip this exercise altogether. It’s not worth the possible “ugliness” that some newly divorced couples can display in the early stages of post divorce communication, especially in front of the children.
However, if you are one of those amicable and cohesive couples this Halloween, SingleDad suggests making it a point to openly discuss a game plan with your ex on sharing the day and evening events, separate and equally.
Most schools still have classroom events and after school activities and now is the perfect opportunity to show your support. It is perfectly normal to negotiate these events and allow each parent the quality time that they deserve with their child. Make sure you get the Halloween plans with your ex in writing when communicating the events so that neither party falls into any awkward situation.
As a newly divorced dad, you have to get comfortable with uncomfortable with sharing time at these family events. Keep the focus on your child, and never attempt to bring a friend or discuss any unresolved court matters if you are at the event together.
You don’t have to act like a couple, just be respectful of each other’s space and time with your child. Remember, you child didn’t choose the divorce, so keep your cool and make the event about your child’s happiness and everything will work out fine.
This is your first year, so make sure to keep a positive attitude and be there to have fun. When it comes to the evening activities, SingleDad suggests that you attempt to keep things simple for your child.
I have seen too many times that each parent wants to drag their child to separate Halloween events and the driving time takes away from the actual celebration and fun. Just remember this SingleDad tip: with a little imagination, you can make every day Halloween for your child if you want to!
Tip #2: Communicate With Your Child
If you already came to a written agreement on the family time for Halloween, now the next step is discussing your Halloween plans with your child. Make sure you are open with your discussion and don’t be afraid to address your child’s concerns.
It’s perfectly normal the first year if you child wants to see both Mom and Dad together at the events. Sharing is caring and that’s fine. If this is a request, now is a great time to openly discuss your game plan that both Mom and Dad agreed to for Halloween and the roles that they will play.
It also allows a single parent to discuss how divorce has a few rules to the roles each parent plays at these events with your child. Each child will emotionally handle these discussions differently, but they all want to know the same thing: what does the overall picture look like, and how does it affect me? Be sure to reinforce the support of each other and that all activities can be done at either home.
Take your time and make sure your child sees the “big picture” for this year’s Halloween activities. Let your child know that these changes will not take away from their time with you and there are always opportunities to make many events more fun, like the aforementioned Halloween can happen every day idea.
Tip#3: Be a Good Negotiator
The key to a successful first year as a single parent is your ability to negotiate fairly with your children and ex-spouse. That’s right, you must be an ambassador of peace and an expert negotiator in foreign relations.
In this case, the foreign relationship is going to be with your ex-spouse and your domestic policy topics are all going to be about the children and the many school activities, sports events, social events that you once took for granted.
Now that you no longer control your attendance to these events, your negotiating skills become very important. Time with your children is limited, and becomes the most valuable resource to you.
A good negotiator is a person that does not get caught up on one, single event. SingleDad suggests that you keep an eye on the big picture and be willing to concede in some areas, while gaining as much time as possible with your children throughout the year.
Things will be different this Halloween for you. However, things get better as time and routines build between both parents and their new households. Just remember, time is the one thing you cannot get back, so make every moment count with your child.
Happy Halloween from SingleDad.com and DadsDivorce.com!
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, 45, is the founder of SingleDad.com, a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single father with children. RJ is a self-employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents “Make Life Happen…Again!”