Roth-Gutman Law

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Strategizing with you to help a child

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Not-so-Spooky Halloween Tips for Resource Families

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:

  • 1. Festive, friendly decorations, cute costumes or childlike ghosts
  • 2. Make sure costumes are sensory friendly, not scratchy or itchy
  • 3. Trunk-or-treats tend to be in a small, controlled environment
  • 4. Schedule fun plans for the child, not necessarily the adults
  • 5. Bring extra adults or older children trick-or-treating to make the child feel safe
  • 6. Consider visiting houses of friends and family the child has already met
  • 7. Trick-or-treat during daytime hours, rather than after dark (a lot of neighborhoods don't do this so be sure to plan ahead)
  • 8. If you are trick-or-treating at night, bring a flashlight
  • 9. Don’t force a child to go trick-or-treating. Ask if they prefer to hand out candy instead
  • 10. Make sure to gently talk about any feelings and let them know it’s ok and normal to have fears or not want to celebrate at all

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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Published by Jill Roth-Gutman

Jill Roth-Gutman is a Child Welfare Law Specialist, certified by the National Association of Counsel for Children, a credentialing organization approved by the American Bar Association. She provides New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly, DYFS) consultations to resource parents, family members and potential foster and foster-to-adopt parents as well as completes DCPP Adoption. She also specializes in Adult Child Guardianships, writing Power of Attorney and Living Wills. Ms. Roth-Gutman is available as Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in contested child custody cases and as a Court Appointment Attorney for Alleged Incapacitated Persons in Guardianships. Ms. Roth-Gutman is a proud member of the Burlington County Bar Association, Camp to Belong River Valley Recruitment Committee, and sits on the Camden County Workforce Development Board's Youth Investment Council Committee.