Halloween is typically a favorite holiday for my family, although this year is expected to look much different thanks to COVID-19. As our children have grown up, October was always a month that we all looked forward to for festive fun.
Guest Post by Robin Perrigo-Mermans of Road to Resolution
My husband and I have five children together, under two separate parenting agreements. I have a son and daughter from a previous marriage and my husband has three sons from a previous marriage. We’ve been co-parenting together for over ten years and have experienced our children at various ages. They are in their teens and early 20s now, so Halloween celebrations have certainly changed over the years. From young kids trick-or-treating to teenagers and young adults enjoying parties with friends, our kids still love the holiday.
As a family, we’ve enjoyed costume parties, hayrides, and visits to pumpkin patches during the Halloween and fall season. However, as with any shared parenting experience, we’ve also had our challenges when it came to making decisions with our parenting partners. In addition to being a mom and stepmom, I’m also a collaborative family law attorney who offers professional co-parenting guidance. I know all too well the occasional struggles of shared parenting and coordinating legal agreements. This year is even more difficult and has presented new challenges because of the current pandemic. I’d like to offer some insight and guidance to help reduce the stress of co-parenting during this unique Halloween season.
Understand Your Shared Parenting Agreement:
To reduce any potential conflict, debate, and confusion, I recommend that families include Halloween plans in their shared parenting agreements. In my shared parenting agreement, we outlined Halloween plans. We updated the plan over the years as our children grew up and reached different life stages. As an attorney, I’ve noticed that many families have modernized their parenting agreements specifically due to COVID-19. If you and your parenting partners have altered work routines, school schedules, and/or living arrangements as a result of the coronavirus, it might be a good idea to revisit your shared parenting or custody agreement. With the help of a family law professional, you can update it to better fit your lives and schedules during this pandemic. You can also add in information specifically about holidays during this pandemic and how you’ll approach them.
Communicate with Parenting Partners:
As our children became teenagers, they started having Halloween plans that didn’t involve us as parents. They wanted to go to Halloween parties and wanted to trick-or-treat with friends. To maintain a positive relationship with our parenting partners, we committed to communicating the plans of our children, even if we weren’t involved in their plans. We would discuss where they were going, who they were with, where they were staying, what time they were expected home, etc. To ensure added safety, we’ve offered to drive or carpool to their destination or serve as home-base during neighborhood trick-or-treating. Occasionally, we offered to host the Halloween parties to ensure we knew where they were and what they were doing. Being on the same page as our parenting partners also shows our children that we are unified and safety was a top priority for all parents involved in their lives.
Addressing Potential Costume Controversy:
I’m sure many parents can relate with the yearly costume controversy. From deciding young children’s costumes to approving of older children’s costumes, this can be one of the most difficult, frustrating, and also fun parts of Halloween. While I believe it’s important for parents to allow their children to express themselves through their creativity and individuality, I also believe it’s equally important to make sure their costumes are age appropriate and culturally respectful. This is often worth a discussion with parenting partners to ensure everyone is on the same page. If there are some disagreements, have that conversation with the adults, without the children present or even within earshot. If co-parents can’t reach an agreement leading to conflict, families may need to get a legal professional involved to mediate the situation and reach a resolution.
Know the Risks and Recommendations:
Co-parenting families who have young children and teenagers this Halloween will experience challenges unlike years past thanks to COVID-19. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially took a stance on trick-or-treating this year. The government health agency is discouraging it, as well as other activities, due to high risk of spreading disease. The high-risk activity list includes:
- Door-to-door trick-or-treating
- Trunk-or-treat events with treats handed out to large groups from trunks of cars inparking lots
- Attending indoor costume parties
- Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be screaming
- Participating in hayrides/tractor rides with people who are not in your household
- Traveling to a fall festival outside your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.
While these recommendations have already been met with controversy nationwide, you and your co-parent should discuss how you’ll handle this guidance. If you allow your children to trick-or-treat or attend a costume party, look for ways to encourage safety to limit the spread of the coronavirus. There are several creative options like incorporating a face covering or gloves into their costume. Maybe they can even integrate hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes too. I mean, creativity is half the fun of Halloween, right? I want to mention that if you and your parenting partner have any reservations about safety of your children or teens when it comes to celebrating Halloween during this pandemic, it’s okay to keep them at home. If that’s the decision, consider planning a family night with scary movies, games, treats, and/or a bonfire to celebrate safely at home.
As we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah, there are certainly a lot of questions when it comes to shared parenting during the holiday season that’s impacted by COVID-19. We have more important information and resources about this topic on my ROAD to RESOLUTION blog. If you have any legal questions about how your shared parenting or custody agreement pertains to upcoming holidays, please give us a call at (980) 260-1600. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you and your family.
Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.
Robin Perrigo-Mermans is a collaborative attorney and certified mediator. She owns ROAD to RESOLUTION, a divorce mediation and collaborative family law firm, in Charlotte. Due to her unique perspective as an attorney, mother, and stepmother, she is an expert in shared parenting solutions and co-parenting guidance. She is committed to using her personal story and passion to help her clients save time and money, while avoiding unnecessary emotional turmoil during their divorce journey and on their road to resolution. Licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina, Robin is a trained Collaborative Attorney and a Dispute Resolution Commission Certified Mediator. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Carolina Collaborative Law Group.