Jenny’s stomach clenched as she read the words. “Whenever possible–join together to be with children. This shows they still have both parents.” She threw the magazine. Yet another co-parenting article asking her to do the impossible. Be with David.
How could she? He had cheated on her. He balked at every child support payment. And, now was flouting his new girlfriend in front of the children.
WHY?! Why did so many “experts” ask her to be with him?
Jenny echoes the exasperation of many. Co-parenting books tout the importance of parents offering a united front. Working together. Being nice. Why?!
Sure, many ex-spouses do want the other parent to be okay, But, often, they want the other to be okay . . .in Africa. Far away and out of sight. Where the new life doesn’t unfold right in front of them.
Yet, children need their parents to still be their parents.
They need parents to work together. To offer consistent messages. To coordinate their efforts.
How do parents, reeling from so much emotion, get here?
Oddly, Halloween can help.
A low-key holiday with little emotion, Halloween focuses on fun. This lightened mood–free from deep-seated family traditions or connections–offers parents the opportunity to join forces in an equally low-key way. It can be a great first step. Here’s why–
Most sane, mature people can manage 2 hours searching for candy. Especially if they join with a larger neighborhood group as they trick or treat or at a community Trunk-or-Treat event. The kids anticipate fun and treats. All parents have to do is join their spirit and the fun.
- Set some ground rules. Mutually agree on a range of costume options, then let the kids pick their costumes. Decide ahead of time who will check the candy. Agree about the length of time to be out. Defined expectations keep parents from using these areas for control or manipulation.
- If possible, join a group of parents as they move through the neighborhood. This takes the edge off having to interact with each other–but offers a safe context for doing so.
- Focus on the kids. Join in their fun, encourage those who may be timid, stay watchful for when tiredness means it’s time to call it a night.
When Jenny called David to ask about sharing Halloween, she expected the worst. Surprisingly, he was willing. They made it through the night without a single fight. They actually found themselves laughing as their children bounced from house to house–cheering over the full-sized Snickers.
Nothing primes parents to work together like successfully working together. Halloween offers a short-term, low-key opportunity for success. More, children experience a fun night with both parents. One that feels like old times and can frame the new times. They see that life continues. Differently . . .but good.
For more tips on how to co-parent effectively call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to helping you navigate life post-divorce.