Tips for a Safe and Festive Halloween

“Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story.”—Mason Cooley, aphorist and professor

It’s almost Halloween, a holiday that kids either love to celebrate or treat like any other day. If you’ve opted for your child to “sit out” on this holiday, it’s not a bad idea to explain your reasoning to him or her before the holiday buzz begins. Halloween can sometimes be a big deal for young kids—from elaborate costumes to trick-or-treating—and it may be an event that your child’s peers plan out in advance. If your child knows what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to Halloween, disappointment and misunderstandings can be avoided. If you and your child plan on celebrating this Halloween, make the holiday a festive, learning experience with these ideas.

Tips for all parents...

• Follow your child’s lead on Halloween. If he or she wants to go trick-or-treating, find a safe way for this to happen. If your child isn’t interested in Halloween, don’t make a big deal of it.

• Find out which aspects of Halloween your child likes best. Some kids love carving pumpkins, and some like dressing up, while others like being with their friends. Plan activities accordingly.

• Create a Halloween that you and your child both enjoy. For example, some parents believe kids get too much candy, so they find an alternative treat to distribute. Others enjoy helping their kids find and/or make costumes. Others like to create a safe place for kids to gather for a Halloween party. Do what fits you and your child best.

• Set limits on how much candy kids can eat. It’s very tempting for them to eat too much, and they’ll feel sick afterward.

• Send a free Halloween e-card to your child.

For parents with children ages birth to 5

• With infants and toddlers, consider staying home and greeting people with treats when they come to your door. Your toddler or preschooler may want to help distribute treats.

• Choose costumes that are comfortable and feel like clothes. Young children don’t do well with masks or costumes that are uncomfortable to sit and jump in.

• Keep Halloween low-key. Young children can easily get over stimulated and overwhelmed by all the costumes and new people. If your child wants to go trick-or-treating, take your child to places he or she knows, such as the houses of well-known neighbors, friends, and family members.

For parents with children ages 6–9

• See if your child wants to include a friend in trick-or-treating—or in distributing treats. As a parent, stick close by to monitor them, but give them a bit of independence if they wish (as long as you can see them).

• Your child may want to wear his or her costume to school. Find out what guidelines schools have for Halloween parties and costumes, and follow those guidelines.

• If your child wants to choose a costume that has inappropriate themes, be clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not. For example, instead of buying a plastic cleaver, consider making one out of a broom handle and tinfoil. (Or decide that you don’t want your child carrying any type of weapon at all.)

For parents with children ages 10–15

• Follow your child’s interest in Halloween at this age. Don’t be surprised if your he or she wants to do a lot with Halloween one year, ignores it the next, and then becomes interested again the following year. If they go, make sure you know with whom they’ll be, where they’re going, and when they’ll be home.

• Many kids at this age begin to be invited to costume parties. Make sure these parties have adult supervision and are alcohol- and drug-free. Even though your teenager may object, don’t hesitate to contact the parents who are hosting the party for details.

• Learn more about the costume your child wants to wear. Manga, anime, and video-game characters are popular, and it’s often helpful to know more about these characters. Ask questions to find out why your child is interested.

• Some kids at this age want nothing to do with this holiday. Few things can make you shrivel as fast as when you ask a 14-year old what she will be wearing for Halloween and she looks at you as though you are from another planet and says that “This is a holiday for little kids.”

For parents with children ages 16–18

• Some older teens like to play tricks on Halloween. Try to keep tabs on what they’re up to, and make sure their tricks aren’t going too far. (A number of homes get toilet papered and egged on Halloween night.)

• If your teenager ignores this holiday, don’t be surprised. Many teenagers at this age do. Some consider it a holiday “for young kids.”

• Continue to talk to your teenager about costume parties that could possibly have alcohol or drugs. Talk about why it’s important for your teenager to stay drug and alcohol-free.