Halloween is a fun time of year, filled with imagination, friends, pumpkin patches and pumpkin lattés! For young children, this time of year can be both exciting and chaotic.
It’s not easy to convince young children that costumes are just “pretend”, it’s okay to knock on strangers doors ”just this one time” and that the loud music and chatter “is not scary”. Those super cute kids dressed up in costumes (and very creative adult costumes) don’t look like pretend to children. They look very, very real.
It is important to remember that young children are still learning the difference between “real” and “unreal” and will look to a trusted adult for guidance and emotional support. 5 tips to remember when preparing your child for Trick-or-Treating OR getting ready to attend a festive event:
1) Costumes are not very comfortable.
Children’s costumes are not the most comfortable things to wear. A lot of them cover their face, are coated with scratchy exterior, have lots of buttons and snaps and are bulky. When deciding what costume you are going to dress your child in, make sure to purchase it at least three weeks before the big event. This will allow your child to get used to the costume by investigating it, touching it and wearing it multiple times before you go out into a new (sometimes scary-to-them) situation.
2) Other Children that are Dressed UP can be Scary.
Although we, as adults, know the difference between real and fake, children can’t always tell. In order to prepare your child for the fact that other people (not just them) will be dressed up, take them to the Halloween stores or children’s costume stores. Let them look around and see the different costumes. As you are walking through the store, name the different costumes and talk about how some people are going to choose to wear those clothes. They are just clothes and there is no need to be scared. Also, take your child to the library and look at some children’s books that discuss dress up and costumes.
3) Most Party’s and Holiday Events are LATE.
Holiday events typically happen later in the day or at night. Young children not used to going outside after it gets dark, can be extra cautious about being outside at this time of day. Instead of “wind down” time, all of a sudden this is “over-stimulation” time. Be prepared that your child may be tired and will want to go home after just a short time. As fun as it is to parade around in your costume, make sure to identify your child’s feelings and respect their desire to return home if they are not comfortable. This will prevent unwanted meltdowns and frustrated parents.
4) Lots of People can be NOISY
While out at events, the noise volume can increase dramatically. Make sure to have a special place you can take your child for frequent breaks (at least once every half hour). This could be in the car or a quiet spot on the curb. During these breaks, allow your child to eat a small snack and drink some water out of a familiar cup. Scheduling in these breaks will allow your child to decompress, gather themselves and re-energize.
5) Knocking on a stranger’s door is NOT normal.
Asking children to “Trick-or-Treat” is a funny request. Adults are always telling kids to stay off neighbor’s lawns and out of the yards, not to talk to strangers and not to go randomly knocking on doors. Although, on this particular night, all of those rules go away! HOW CONFUSING! Be prepared for your child to request that you participate in EVERY knock, using you as a sense of comfort. If a child feels uncomfortable, not wanting to “Trick-or-Treat”, explain to them that you understand that this is a different situation and that it is okay if they want to just walk around with you. Enjoy the evening together and don’t force them to do something they are not comfortable with.
Halloween, and the activities that go along with this time of year, can be overwhelming to a young child. Respecting their feelings will foster a positive relationship to the “idea” of these activities. Next year, they will be more familiar with the events and might engage a little more.
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