Halloween is one of the most popular, highly anticipated holidays in the United States. There are parties in and out of school, hayrides, fall festivals, pumpkin picking, movies like It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Ghostbusters, and many horror movies. And, of course, there is trick-or-treating! But along with fun, there are monsters in the dark and under the bed, ghosts, goblins, skeletons, creepy costumes, blood and guts, and more. Childhood fears are often profound at this time of the year. Fear can be rooted in a sense of harm, can be intense and can trigger a trauma response.
Ask the child you are caring for about their feelings surrounding Halloween. Hopefully, they are excited about dressing up, choosing a costume, and eating too much candy! Halloween may be a holiday that sparks positive or negative experiences. It might spark some anxiety from past experiences. Or, it could make the child feel guilty they are not with their biological parent. They may have anticipated coordinating a Halloween costume with a family member or friend from their old neighborhood. Open communication is always best and asking questions about annual traditions is okay. You may even be able to incorporate old traditions into your own, or make new ones together.
Additionally, Halloween can be stimulus overload with the lights, music, costumes, and fog machines. Combining that with contact with strangers and lots of transitions from home to home may also trigger trauma. Be ready to calmly change course and redirect the festivities. If a more traditional plan of trick-or-treating isn’t feeling quite right, returning home to decorate a pumpkin and watch a lighthearted, silly Halloween show or movie is an enjoyable celebration.
If you are planning on trick-or-treating, be mindful to tell the child your household rules, especially if this is their first year celebrating Halloween with you. Are they permitted to run from house to house? How much candy can they consume that day and each day after until their loot runs out? Do they need to donate candy? Will you be inspecting the candy? Can they trade candy if there are other children in the house? How many apartment complexes, streets or neighborhoods can they conquer? Do you require a candy tax?
The following 10 ideas can help you prepare to make this Halloween a success:
If a child with allergies was just placed with you, remember to bring an epi-pen and be prepared to review all candy for allergens. I recently learned allergens may be in makeup, not just food. Please be careful of any makeup you intend to use as part of a Halloween costume.
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