Plan, prevent, and practice with these tips
Holidays always come with an extra charge when you are a Solo Mom and even more so when your child has special needs. Halloween is fraught with issues for many kids: treats that they can’t eat, costumes they won’t wear, friends who don’t invite them trick-or-treating, and all those scary decorations.
Like all the other holidays and changes in routine, we have to start early to plan, prepare, and practice.
First, take a realistic view of what your child can and cannot do. Do they want to go trick-or-treating but are nervous? Do they want a costume but won’t wear a mask or hat fabric that irritates their skin? Talk to your child well in advance to gauge interest, ability, and reality. This includes what you do at home in terms of decorations and fall activities, what happens at school, and what will happen Halloween night. Use this list to cover the potential issues with your child.
Many young kids will not tolerate a mask or makeup so don’t insist.
Store-bought costumes are also usually ill-fitting and scratchy.
There are lots of easy costumes to assemble using your child’s own clothes. One year my daughter wore her own brown pants and shirt and we pinned on a piece of artificial ivy and her favorite stuffed cheetah and she was a “Cheetah in a Tree.”
If the costume is not obvious, you can pin a label on your child’s shirt so they don’t have to keep explaining to everyone.
Concept ideas are usually the cheapest and easiest to put together:
- Dress in all black and be a Black Hole.
- Pin stuffed animal cats to a shirt or sweatshirt and be a Cat Lady.
- Wear black pants/tights, a red shirt with black circles pinned or glued on, and you are a Ladybug.
- Dress in all khaki colors, wear hiking boots, and carry a stuffed chimp or gorilla and you are Jane Goodall.
- Wear a black and yellow striped shirt, glue or pin felt letters to it, add a headband with pipe cleaner antennae, and you are a Spelling Bee.
Practice wearing the costume before Halloween so you know it will work and not trigger your child.
Talk to your child’s teacher to see if there is a Halloween parade or party at school. If big crowds and lots of noise are too much for your child, plan an alternative place to watch (maybe from the library) or set up an alternative activity.
Make agreements about the candy haul before Halloween. Most kids consider their trick-or-treat bag to be theirs since they went door-to-door to get it.
If sugar is truly banned for your child, you could donate it to a food pantry or some parents give it to the dentist. You can also “buy” the candy from them, but consider paying with a shared activity like a zoo visit rather than cash.
Elementary age kids will likely have sugary foods at school on Halloween so plan ahead to bring a healthy snack or talk to the principal about whether candy should be at school at all.
Young children are easily spooked so know your neighborhood. If you suspect a prankster waiting to scare the kids as they walk up to a door, start talking loudly that you hope there would be nice people since we didn’t like being scared and it would ruin our night. It usually works along with avoiding houses that are just too scary looking.
If seeing classmates in scary costumes is also a trigger, make a plan. You could go online to a costume shop and look at the costumes with your child ahead of time. If they are unable to understand that the costumes aren’t the real person, you may be better going to a movie on Halloween night instead.
Give your child some control for the day at school and at night.
- Together make an escape plan if things get to be too much.
- Agree on a code word for “I have had enough, but I can’t say all that right now.”
- Honor agreed upon time limits such as when you are leaving a party or how long you will trick-or-treat so your child knows the parameters.
- Does your child want to go with friends? If so, you may need to talk to parents to figure out who is going out with the kids, etc.
- Staying home and passing out candy is a perfectly fine option.
- So is going early before the big kids come out.
- Some shopping centers or other business do afternoon Halloween events for very young children and those that need a softer experience.
- Anticipate and plan for some decompression time at night. Turn off the porch light, put your kid in a soothing bath, and do your usual bedtime routine.
Halloween is supposed to be fun. For adults and kids, it is exciting to try on new characters or concepts. Planning, preparation, and practice will make it fun for everyone.
Anna Stewart is ESME’s Kids with Special Needs Resource Guide and the Solo Mom of a daughter and two sons on the brink of adulthood. She’s a champion for the rights of people living with disabilities and those who love them.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.