By Clinical Counselor and Child and Family Therapist Michele Kambolis, author of Generation Stressed: Play-Based Tools to Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety
Halloween is a time when kids seem to want all the rules to go out the window. After all, it’s supposed to be fun! It’s also a time when children are highly motivated, giving parents a unique opportunity to use that motivation to build on important life skills like problem solving, compromise and self-care. With a few Halloween parenting tips and tricks you’ll be well on your way to a stress free Halloween:
How can I make sure my child remains safe when trick-or-treating with friends?
Allowing your child to trick-or-treat without adult supervision can challenge your parenting instincts. After all, in what other circumstance would we allow our children to walk around the neighborhood late at night, crossing streets and knocking on the doors of strangers? Almost eighty per cent of parents report having Halloween safety fears, yet less than thirty per cent talk about Halloween safety with their children. By creating a plan together, you can use the power of this ghoulish event to help your child remain safe, while learning valuable executive functioning skills:
- Work together to decide upon a specific trick-or-treating route within a safe, well-lit neighbourhood.
- Ensure your child has a cell phone so you can both check in regularly.
- Halloween is by far the most dangerous day of the year for child pedestrians. Incorporate bright colours, glow sticks or reflective tape into your child’s costume to ensure their safety.
- Have your child carry a flashlight.
- Check that your child can see and walk easily. You’d be surprised how often children take a bad fall because their costume is too long!
- Join in for the first few blocks to troubleshoot any safety issues.
- Encourage your child to be aware and trust their instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.
- Play the ‘what if’ game. Ask what they’d do if they were separated from the group, if an adult invited them into their house, or if someone became hurt. Asking these questions will soon tell you whether your child is ready for the responsibility that comes with independence.
What do I do if I don’t agree with my child’s choice of Halloween costume?
Costume power struggles usually fall into two categories: too scary or too sexy. Whether you’re worried about a hyper-sexualized costume or a hyper-gory one, compromise is key. Children use Halloween as a time to explore, and with that comes a great opportunity to find out what they’re most curious about. Ask what they like most about the costume or character and help them find a ‘kid friendly’, toned down version.
How do I manage my child’s Halloween stash?
We work so hard to eat healthy all year round, and suddenly we’re left wondering what to do with a mountain of sugar in the house. Encourage your child to donate their candy or trade it in for cold hard cash. Some dentists and charitable organizations will pay your child for their Halloween candy. But most children are happy to keep their favourite pieces and give the rest away.
How do I handle trick-or-treating friendship drama?
Halloween is a big night for kids and friendship drama can add an extra emotional charge. In most cases, kids work out a solution, but having your steady presence to help them metabolize their emotions, communicate their needs and set boundaries when necessary will bolster their social emotional skills. If your child is left without a trick-or-treating partner, consider joining in on one of the many local family friendly Halloween events.
How do I keep my child safe around Halloween fireworks?
Teens can be extra curious about fireworks and determined to use them. While the legal age to have them in Canada is 18, they’re easy to access. Instead, find out what the bylaws for using fireworks are in your neighbourhood and plan an adult led fireworks display that ensures both fun and safety. Keep in mind, even sparklers can burn at very high temperatures and need extremely close supervision. The key here is keeping the celebration fun and injury free!
About the Author
Michele Kambolis, MA, is a Child and Family Therapist, Registered Clinical Counselor and Parent Educator known for raising awareness about the needs of children and parents. She maintains a private practice, is the founder of Chi Kids and writes a national parenting column called “Parent Traps” for the Vancouver Sun and other Postmedia newspapers.