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There are two times in the year where we put an extreme amount of pressure on our children to get fully consumed in the moment, enjoy the festivities and go with the flow: Christmas and Halloween.

All year-long we teach our children not to talk to strangers, not to go to a stranger’s house, and most importantly, never take candy from a stranger. We educate our children to be very wary of these things.  Is it such a stretch that children, who are very sensitive and highly aware of the dangers around them, have a very hard time adjusting to this temporary change?  Remember, it’s just for one night!

Candy, Costumes and Sensory Overload

Let’s think for a moment about all the sensory add ons that children are taking in at this time of year:

  • Noisy parties
  • Scratchy costumes
  • Constricting masks
  • Sounds of candy wrappers crunching
  • Layers of clothing for trick or treating in cold weather
  • Weather – is it raining, cold, windy?
  • Strobe lights and decorations
  • A usually quiet and calm street transformed by the chaos of the continual foot traffic of little ghouls and goblins
  • Increased sugar intake
  • Sound effects that illicit fear such as screaming or witches cackling

Enter Sensory Overwhelm

Costumes and parties, candy and scary movies, things jumping out at you from the bushes – all of the sights, sounds and goodies are very overwhelming. Some children will just outright refuse to go anywhere near all of the commotion.

The party and dress up at school might just be enough for their liking and we should respect their decision to take a step back from it all. After all, you can still have fun without the pillowcase full of candy, mask on your face and ringing doorbells. Especially for younger children who struggle with anxiety, this time of night comes into play as well.

If Halloween falls on a school night, children may very well have spent all of their energy surviving the day.  Now, we are asking them to push all that aside and just do one more thing. This is a perfect opportunity to create Halloween traditions of your own.  Explore some ideas below.

Create a Halloween Scrapbook

I am sure that in almost every family album you will find the yearly Halloween picture.  It is a time-honoured tradition.  Year after year, we can see the children progress from princess to pop star and from cowboy to fiendishly frightful ghoul.

Skip the ordinary!  Instead of pictures of costumes, create an album of a different halloween food that you created together.  Consider experimenting and make candy apples or cut out the pumpkin and roast the seeds in a variety of flavors.  Each year, discover something you’ve not tried before.  The goal is to have fun and keep the mood light.

Skip the Doorbell Ringing

Have you ever been on the edge of your seat just waiting for the phone or doorbell to ring and when it does you jump? Now, let’s imagine a child that struggles with anxiety.  The sound of the doorbell can make them jump out of their skin.  Imagine how hard it is for that child to calm their nervous system down.  After all the doorbell is ringing over and over and over again.  The anxiety keeps getting triggered.

For some children, they will benefit from getting out of the house.  Go and see an early movie.  Go out to dinner.  The goal is to avoid the chaos. Pick somewhere you have never gone before and make an adventure out of it. Let your little worrier pick the movie or restaurant so they feel like they have a little bit of control over the situation.

Knock Knock, I’m Home

If your child has no desire to join the ghouls and goblins but still wants to partially engage in the evening, let them get dressed up and greet the little devils at your doorstep. Children have a chance to be a part of the evening and experience it from a safe place. Remember…little steps.

Cut up some paper in festive Halloween colours and make a paper chain each time you greet someone at the door. It makes a fun decoration and is neat to see how long the chain is at the close of the evening.

Summary

Whatever tradition resonates with you, don’t be afraid to step outside of the realm of “normal”.  Be open and aware of your child’s ideas and ability to cope. Memories shouldn’t be scary.  Memories should be fun. Share with us your special and unique Halloween tradition on Facebook!

Happy Halloween!