Q: My ex and I have been divorced for three years and share custody of our two sons, ages five and seven. Halloween will be here at the end of the month, and my ex and I are already fighting about who will take the kids trick-or-treating. It causes the same argument every year. Once and for all, how do we decide?
A: When divorcing, most parents remember to include in their divorce decree how they will spend the high-profile holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, but forget about the holidays that don't command quite so much attention. As a result, days like Halloween become problematic and an unanticipated source of stress.
But Halloween is not the problem. It's the decision-making process you have with your ex that is at the root of your arguments.
You are not alone. Most divorced parents do not have a plan in place for making decisions for their children. If something comes up that's not in the divorce decree, parents just fight about it. Someone wins, someone loses. Truth is, when decision making is approached in that manner, the one who loses the most is the child. That's why it is imperative to agree upon a method to make decisions for your children even though you are no longer living with their other parent.
Some find this suggestion unrealistic. If you are divorced, they say, you will never problem solve together. What's the incentive? This attitude is understandable for those who hold onto the old-school divorce rules of "Don't talk to your ex after your breakup." Many parents, however, are now coming to understand that their obligation to make the best decisions for their children doesn't change just because they are no longer together, and their children's well-being becomes the motivation to cooperate with an ex.