Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Having a “Boo"Tacular Time: Preparing your little ones for the frights and excitements of Halloween

:: WRITTEN BY SARA SILVA::

 

Free candy, face painting and dressing-up make Halloween an exciting day for little ones, but there is a flip side to all the excitement. Costumes can be frightening for some children and the spine-tingling decorations and TV shows can be difficult for young children to understand. By engaging your child in preparation for the big day, you can help to ensure that everyone has a “boo”tacular time!

ANTICIPATING YOUR CHILD’S RESPONSE
Consider your child’s response to new or unusual situations: Does your kiddo stand back and observe? Cling to you for reassurance? Go with the flow? Or jump right in? Your child’s response to new situations is often dictated by their temperament (inborn characteristics that are stable over time and impact how we respond to the world around us). By thinking about how your child might respond, you can create a plan for how best to prepare him/her for Halloween.

PREPARING YOUR CHILD FOR THE BIG DAY
The best way to start is to share with your child what they can expect on Halloween (in a positive and reassuring way). Talk about how they might feel and let them know that their feelings are OK – that you will be there to make sure they are safe. For example, the conversation might go like this:

“In five days it’s going to be Halloween. On Halloween, mommy is going to dress up like a cat and you get to wear your bear costume all day. Lots of people are going to dress up and some of their costumes might be scary. It’s OK to feel scared. Mommy is going to be right next to you to make sure that you are safe...In the afternoon we are going to go to the mall and say, “trick-or-treat,” then people are going to give us candy. It is going to be so much fun. After we visit all the stores and say, ‘trick-or- treat,’ we’re going to come back home with lots of candy. When we get home, you can pick “X” pieces of candy to eat and then we’re going to put the rest in your special candy jar so you can have some more candy the next day...”

Make sure to share your expectations about how much candy is OK to eat. Explore costumes and the concept of real versus pretend in simple, child-friendly terms such as, “Daddy is going to pretend to be a werewolf but he’s still daddy. He’s just pretending.” Then have daddy put the costume on in front of your child and pull the mask on and off. Let your little one explore all the different parts of the costumes before the big day. Be ready to talk about Halloween multiple times and be prepared to respond to your child’s repetitions of what you have shared with them – this is how they make sense of events and process what you’ve told them. (You can find another example of a free, downloadable story to help your child prepare for Halloween here.)

ENJOYING THE FESTIVITIES
When Halloween arrives, remind your child about what is going to happen. Clearly share your expectations on safety and how much candy they can eat before you start trick-or- treating. Then get dressed and have a blast! Throughout the evening, check in with your child, using their non-verbal cues and behavior as clues to how they may be feeling. Provide reassurance when they begin to feel scared by validating their emotions and letting them know that you will keep them safe. It can also be very reassuring to know that feelings come and go and that they will feel better soon. Your kiddo’s cues and behavior will also let you know when they have had enough, and it’s time to go home.

By preparing your little one for the holiday festivities and clearly sharing your expectations beforehand, you can ensure that the
whole family has a “boo”tacular Halloween celebration!

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Sara Silva is a Pyramid Model Coach at Child Care Connections, where their work is all about quality child care. Visit online at cccmontana.org or call 406-587-7786 for information on their services for families and child care providers.