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Ex-etiquette: Talk to, not at, ex about daughter's Halloween costume

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q. My 8-year-old daughter, Jesse, wants to be a sexy witch for Halloween. Her mother thinks it’s perfectly fine, but I don’t want my daughter walking the streets of the neighborhood looking like that. (We live about a mile from each other.) Her mother was offended when I said the costume looks like a hooker — probably not the right way to talk, but I was angry when she said my daughter was with her this Halloween and I had no say about her costume. I don’t know what to do. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. First, it’s OUR daughter, not "my" daughter. That subtle switch will hopefully alert you both to the fact that it’s not you against mom, it’s you AND mom for your daughter.

Next, co-parenting isn’t digging in your heels and saying, “This is the way it is, so there!” It’s discussion and compromise and looking for solutions in the name of your children. Both you and mom dug in your heels during your disagreement. You each took sides believing you were right, the other was wrong. All that approach will get you is a thumb to the nose — which is basically what you got when she said, “Well, she’s with me and you have no say.” The discussion was over.

This can’t be the first time you’ve disagreed in this manner. It sounds as if you have set precedent a long time ago. I have found in my work with divorced parents that most problem-solve after the breakup exactly the same way they did when they were together.

If you were in my office, I would ask you, “What is your plan NOW THAT YOU ARE NO LONGER TOGETHER when you disagree? What changes have you made in how you approach each other to prevent arguments and actually find solutions?”


Most look at me with a blank stare: “What do you mean, I have to make changes?”

It has been said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results. If digging in your heels didn’t work before, it is doubtful it will work now. You have to approach each other differently if you want a different result.

That means you may have to talk to each other — not at each other. You may have to make suggestions and respectfully weigh out the pros and cons. Good ex-etiquette for parents rule #10 is, “Look for the compromise.” So are there some subtle changes that can be made to the costume that will make it tolerable for all? Add some tights, an underskirt to make the dress longer, don’t make the makeup too provocative? I’m just throwing out some ideas. The key is neither of you have to be all right or all wrong. You just have to change your approach. Work together and figure it out in the name of your child. That’s much healthier for her than her watching you both dig in your heels. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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