My Q Health | Taking Halloween by the Horns
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Taking Halloween by the Horns

Taking Halloween by the Horns

Tips for parents whose children aren’t the happiest trick-or-treaters

Harry Kimball

Let’s face it, Halloween can be a real stressor for parents, and not just those for whom costume-making entails blood, sweat, and tears. The reason they put up with the angst, not to speak of stocking the house with tiny Snickers and Kit Kat bars, is the unmitigated joy their children derive from the holiday, which seems tailor made for young imaginations, as well as appetites. As an expert spells it out aptly for ABC News:

First, there is the excitement of dressing up, taking on the persona of someone or something else, and acting the part for a little while. Next, there is showing off for the people around you, those who will marvel at how scary, fierce, beautiful or unique you are. And finally, there is the chance to grab as many Skittles and chocolate as you can.

For many children, Halloween is a sanctioned opportunity to hit the town and get some major developmental work done, exhibiting mastery over their environment, testing out confident interpersonal interactions, and building a social network.

But for plenty of other kids, those same opportunities loom as huge challenges. And for their parents: As one mom we know put it, “If you have a kid who’s prone to meltdowns, Halloween is the perfect setup.” For kids who have challenges acting appropriately, dealing with surprises and disappointments, following directions, getting along with peers, or resisting the impulse to consume all their spoils on the spot, the evening can go off the rails.

How can the parents of kids with developmental or anxiety disorders or disruptive behavior problems stay cool on what has the potential to be the most anarchic holiday of the year?

The Costume: For some kids, particularly those with sensory issues, the wrong item of clothing can destroy a wonderful night—for you and for them. Experienced (and tough as nails) parents of special needs children have an elegant solution: wear what suits them. No “helmets, masks, face paint, scratchy material, special shoes, sound effects or anything scary,” writes Michaela Searfoorce on The Foorce. Ellen Seidman, writing in Redbookdescribes years of meltdowns and freakouts for her son Max, diagnosed with cerebral palsy. “He wailed; I cried.” And then, a revelation:

We would do Halloween our way, in T-shirts and sweatpants. That would be our tradition, as quirky as our family itself. And so off we went, trick-or-treating. “Who are you?” neighbors asked, perplexed by my costume-less children. “I’m Sabrina!” said Sabrina. “Ax!” said Max. Best costumes ever.

To read the full article, visit the Child Mind Institute.

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