Halloween is coming up quickly and many children are anxiously counting the hours until Halloween. For children this is a great holiday. They get to wear a costume they like and they get free candy. What more could a child ask for? Many children plan all year about the costume they are going to wear. Many children have very elaborate costumes and they are very proud of their costume and they have a lot of fun being someone else for the day. Additionally, since many of the Covid restrictions have been removed, this is the first Halloween in two years where they can just have fun.
Since most children have been planning for Halloween for months and at school they often have Halloween activities and sometimes Halloween parties, it should not be a surprise that they are full of energy and usually hyper on Halloween. For some parents, this can create a problem especially when you have more than one hyper child to contend with on Halloween. Additionally, since children are so hyper on Halloween and expecting a lot, it is not surprising that children can have melt downs very easily in addition to being very excited. This can set up a situation where Halloween can easily fall a part. If parents have had a hard day or week at work, the last thing they are looking forward to is a house full of children bouncing off the walls who can’t understand why their parents are not excited too.
In order to avoid a chaotic Halloween it is helpful to establish a family plan for the day. A plan that you have also discussed with the children and everyone agrees to follow. By having a family plan you can help avoid melt downs and if one does occur you are in a better position to deal with it.
Before moving a head with the family plan, parents remember Halloween is only one day out of the year and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Try to remind your children about this fact. Also remember this phrase to help you avoid arguments or meltdowns:
If your child or you are feeling any of these emotions take it slow. These are the feelings that tend to proceed an argument or meltdown.
After remembering HALT, the next step is to have a family meeting regarding costumes. Discuss what your children want to be and make sure it’s appropriate for their age and for the weather you typically have for Halloween. Additionally, you may need to look at how much your child wants to spend on their costumes. Once you and your child have agreed upon an appropriate costume that they like, you are ready for the next step.
The next thing you need to look at is what day of the week is Halloween. For example, this year Halloween is on Tuesday. Therefore, children have school the next day and this needs to be part of the family’s plans for Halloween. Additionally, parents need to decide if they are comfortable with their children trick or treating in their neighborhood or just at houses with people the family has as friends. Maybe you are not comfortable with trick or treating and your city, church or friends may be hosting a Halloween party and you are planning on attending a party. Some families also plan to have a special Halloween dinner and watching Halloween movies at home. Once parents have decided what they feel is the best option for their family, the parents can explain their decision to their children. During this time, parents can address any objections children may have and discuss the issues and feelings until you have an agreement.
Another important thing to check is your child’s school policy regarding Halloween costumes. Are children allowed to wear their costumes the day of Halloween? Are there parts of a costume, such as a toy gun, that are not allowed at the school. This can save you from getting to school with your child in a costume and finding out costumes are not allowed. If you know the rules in advance, you can prepare your child for the rules of the school without an argument on Halloween.
The finally step is to have a plan in place for melt downs. The day before Halloween and the day of Halloween make sure your children were able to get a good nights sleep and have had breakfast, lunch and dinner and not too much candy. This will help your children to be able to control their emotions easier and make it easier for them to pay attention. If there is a melt down, a time out usually is the best option. If you are at a party, try to find a quiet place you can sit with your child while they get themselves together. If they are unable to get themselves together or the melt downs keep happening then it’s time to call it a night and let them go to bed. Try to frame it as they are going to bed because they need more sleep and not as a punishment. This may make it easier if you have to call it a night. Also before Halloween go over your expectations and what you consider a meltdown and any other behavior that may trigger a time out. It’s very important that everyone has the same understanding about the rules. This increases the odds that everyone will follow the rules and if they don’t, everyone will understand what is going to happen.
Putting together a plan increases your chances of everyone has a fun Halloween. However, most children are very excited about Halloween and are more hyper than usual. Therefore, take these factors into account when you are dealing with your children. Their behavior may not be what you expected, but if it’s not causing problems it’s best to overlook it. Remember, children have been attending school remotely for over a year with very little contact with their friends. Therefore, they are more likely to be a little more excited this year. Happy Halloween.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.