Halloween can be an overwhelming and scary holiday (pardon the pun) for many kids. Kids with allergies can be anxious about what candy they will get, kids with specific fears may be anxious about what costumes they will encounter, kids with sensory issues may be anxious about the unexpected noise and lights they will experience, and shy kids may be anxious about going door to door and speaking up for themselves.
Here are some general guidelines to prepare for a successful Halloween experience:
1- Explain the concept of Halloween using the golden rule of pass or play. Teach that Halloween is all about having fun but that some things can be scary. Point out that being scared is okay because they are still safe. However if they find something too scary they have a choice to pass or play. While it is all in good fun, share that some things may be too scary for them and it is okay to pass on those things. Encourage kids to make that choice on their own. With hyper anxious kids try to encourage more plays than passes. Come up with a reasonable number of passes ahead of time. For instance, have them use a fear scale of 1-10. Decide that anything that raises their anxiety or fear above an 8 is worth thinking about the pass or play rule. But try to limit the passes to 1-2 experiences so that they also learn to face their fears.
2-Try to anticipate certain things that will trigger kids. For example, if a child has sensory issues incorporate earbuds and an eye mask for when they experience sensory overload by the noise and lights. For kids who are nervous about asking for candy try to role play what to say. Practice the exchange a few times and stay with them at the first house while gradually moving farther from the door at subsequent homes. For a kid with allergies, make a plan that at the end of the night a parent will go through all the candy and check to see what is safe.
3- Make it a teaching moment. Use this to teach about the generosity of strangers and how to meet new people. Emphasize practicing social skills at each home like eye contact, being polite, introducing yourself (your costume), etc. Reinforce good behavior.
4- Encourage fun! No matter how much candy or homes you visit reinforce that they were brave for going!