Starting Your Own Halloween Tradition

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, so is it such a stretch that when 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 things that children are taking in at this time of year:

  • Noisy parties
  • Scratchy costumes
  • Constricting masks
  • Sounds of candy wrappers crunching
  •  Layers of clothing if trick or treating in colder weather
  • The 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

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 children who are younger and struggle with anxiety, the time of night comes into play as well. If Halloween falls on a school night they may very well have spent all of their energy surviving the day and now we ask them to push all that aside and just do one more thing. This is a perfect opportunity to create Halloween traditions of your own.

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

  • Skip the ordinary and create an album of a different food that you created together such as experimenting with making candy apples or cutting out the pumpkin. Each year you can discover something you’ve not tried before, while having fun and keeping the mood light.

Skip the Doorbell Ringing
Have you ever been on the edge of your seat just waiting for the phone to ring or the doorbell to go and when it does you jump? Imagine a child that struggles with anxiety, so much so that sounds like the doorbell or phone make them jump out of their skin? Imagine how hard it is for that child to calm their nervous system down when over and over and over again it just keeps getting triggered.

  • For some children, getting out of the house all together–going to see an early movie or going out for dinner–is a great way to avoid the chaos. Pick somewhere you have never gone before and make an adventure out of it. Let your little worrier pick the place 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 let them greet the little devils at your doorstep. They 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.

Whatever tradition resonates with you, don’t be afraid to step outside of the realm of normal and be open and aware of your child’s ideas and ability to cope. Memories shouldn’t be scary – they should be fun. Share with us your Halloween tradition. Happy Halloween!

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Darlene Wierski-Devoe, CCP About Darlene Wierski-Devoe, CCP

Darlene is a blogger at Raising Socially Anxious Children Blog, author of the illustrated children's anxiety book "Just Like You", and a certified life coach at Talk Breathe Live. She specializes in childhood mood and anxiety disorders.