How to Handle All the Parenting Challenges of Spooky Season.
It’s almost time to trick-or-treat!
While lots of kids are excited for Halloween some feel nervous about running through dark streets, ringing doorbells and asking strangers for candy.
For parents, too, the etiquette challenges of Halloween can be frightful.
Unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and negative feelings.
Here’s how parents can make sure everyone has fun on Halloween.
When it’s your first-time trick-or-treating.
A child’s first trick-or-treating experience is a big deal, so prepare them by visiting fall festivals, decorating pumpkins, reading books about trick-or-treating or watching videos about Halloween.
Or, introduce trick-or-treating with role play.
“Have your kid knock on your front door and say, ‘Trick or treat’ and ‘Thank you for the candy.
If your child is spooked by decorations, drive or walk by some adorned homes during the day.
If you’re passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, your child can help answer the door.
“Even if they stand behind you or watch from the window, they can still experience trick-or-treating.
When a child is neurodivergent.
“For children who are anxious or on the autism spectrum, Halloween can be intimidating.There are too many unknowns.
Costumes, for example, can be confusing, especially if your child has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.
If you’re meeting up with other families to trick-or-treat, you can ask others to remove their masks when greeting your child so he or she clearly understands the costume isn’t real.
When a child has a food allergy.
Show that your home is conscious of food allergies by participating in The Teal Pumpkin Project.
Teal pumpkins signal that a home offers non-edible treats like stickers or toys along with candy.
Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, author of “The New Allergy Solution,” suggests families make a plan for trick-or-treaters with food allergies.
When your teen wants to trick-or-treat unsupervised.
Halloween is an opportunity for responsible teens to trick-or-treat with their friends, instead of parents.
“It’s a night for kids to have autonomy,” Emily Kline, a Boston-based psychologist and author of the forthcoming book “The School of Hard Talks,” told TODAY Parents.
Kline recommends asking teens, “Where are you trick-or-treating?” “Who will you be with?” “What’s your buddy system?” “What time are you coming home?” and importantly, “What are you most looking forward to?”
“You’ll get the most leverage with your kid if you’re excited as opposed to anxious,” she explained.
Kline challenges parents to resist checking in with teens throughout the night, especially if they’ve already agreed on a plan.
When is a costume cultural appropriation?
Not every Halloween costume is a treat: Don’t choose clothing that stereotypes or mocks someone’s culture, traditions or race.
And if you see a costume that crosses boundaries? “Give that person the benefit of the doubt,” Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist and author of “Mommy Burnout,” told TODAY Parents. “They may not be trying to offend.”
Parents need to be aware of how their child’s costume could seem to others. If your kid’s choice gives you a funny feeling, explore why. “You can also see if your child has a back-up idea.
When everyone can practice their manners.
If you or your child doesn’t understand someone’s look, there’s a sensitive way to ask.
“Say ‘Tell me about your costume’ instead of asking, ‘What are you?'” said Ziegler. “Kids are proud to talk about their costumes.”
Trick-or-treating can be an exercise in good manners as well. “Saying ‘Trick or treat’ and ‘Thank you’ makes people feel good,” she noted. “Those giving candy are in the Halloween spirit and look forward to making small talk. It’s not a race.”
Another good rule for your little monsters — take one piece of candy, not a handful.