Make Halloween an opportunity for your children to express themselves through their costumes. Just think about it: Going trick or treating at night, when everyone else is also wearing a costume and judgement is out for the night - one can seize the opportunity to dress up and become anything one wants to be.
It can be challenging, but you can certainly make of this challenge an opportunity for you and your family to have fun getting ready and then walking out on the streets in your costume-created personalities on the night of October 31st. Get involved, have fun and through your contagious excitement and laughter the whole family will enjoy the whole experience together.
When your child is shy, self-conscious and cares too much about other people’s judgement, this might be a good opportunity to forget about all that. When all the family is dressing up and all of you are going out for the treat of fun of the night it is easier for the shy one to come along – he/she is not the only one.
When your child is sensory, there are a few tricks to make this challenge a fun experience. You know your child best, so figure out what might cause them the most sensory-stress, and modify accordingly:
Getting ready - Costumes, make-up, basket/bags for candy and treats…it all sounds to be lots of fun, but for the sensory child it is likely a challenge.
Prepare your child in advance, have a conversation in which you mention the fun involved in Halloween. Make a plan together that allows your child to enjoy these festivities, considering your child’s sensory issues, their worries, and the nature of this occasion. This way, your child will be involved in the plan, he/she will be prepared for the occasion, and he/she will have a plan to follow that will take away some anxiety…
Making a Plan: Predetermine the route and the time that you will go trick or treating, keep it familiar, not too long and close to home. Having your child keep track of time, and warning him/her on the different stages of the plan all along, will help him/her keep it together. Make sure you have a quiet, low-stimulation place at hand where he/she can avoid sensory overload and regroup, in case he/she needs to.
Dressing-Up: It is a good idea to make your child’s costumes with their own clothes, clothes that he/she is already comfortable with and will not irritate them because of its texture, smell, or couture. Be creative and have fun diving in their closet, you will be surprised how amazing a costume can emerge from there…
The Face: Make up can sometimes be irritating or uncomfortable to your child, so if you will apply make-up, make sure you try it in advance to make sure he/she will be OK with it. Avoid the use of masks, they can irritate their face and might limit your child’s vision, impairing not only their vision but possibly their balance and movement, which can be dangerous.
Add wigs, hats, scarves, and other elements as much as your child will be comfortable with, when in doubt, try it in advance….
Back to your plan, Keep daily routines as much as possible, including bed-time. You know how changing significantly your child’s routine can cause distress.
Staying Calm: Use Sleep’n Sync’s tips to keep calm, included in its programs Dealing with Anger-Helping Your Child Deal with Explosions, and Deal with Frustration and Anger, which involve teaching your child to read his body for alarms, plus active and passive methods to keep and regain control to avoid meltdowns.
Activities that deliver strong proprioceptive sensory input to the muscles and joints are always calming and organizing and should be used before going out trick or treating and when you return.
These activities include:
- Jumping, running, dancing or biking around safely.
- Sucking jello through a straw, chewing on ice, or brushing teeth and gums for oral-motor input.
- Pushing, carrying, lifting, and pulling heavy loads, is also helpful.
- Having your child tensing and releasing their muscles and taking deep breaths
Keep in mind that Halloween can be used as the right challenge-occasion to talk about fears and how to manage them, if you so wish to do. Even if you don’t celebrate it, you can use some other dress-up festivities to have your child overcome fears-one step at a time- on new sensations, get the experience and be confident that he can do it and have fun in the process.
The only thing to be fearful of is fear itself!