In just a few days, little goblins will be ringing my doorbell. I can’t wait…I really love seeing kids having fun, all dressed up in costume, and so excited to go home and sort out their treats!
However, for many families, Halloween is really not all that much fun. Special needs can throw a wrench into this holiday, making it a rough day for everyone. For some kids, costumes are itchy, or have unfamiliar textures that make them feel uneasy. For others, the concept of dressing up feels uncomfortable. One mom of a child with autism confided, “My daughter really doesn’t like to pretend to be someone she’s not.” Some children may have difficulty navigating wet lawns and uneven pavement in the dark, while others feel frustrated because they’re sensitive or allergic to many of the popular treats they collect. Finally, those who struggle socially are often left out of trick-or-treating groups or Halloween parties. One dad found out that every child in the neighborhood was invited to a pumpkin party…except his son. When another neighbor asked the party host about it, she simply replied. “Oh. We really don’t care for him. So he’s not invited.”
While we can’t control the hearts and minds of everyone in the neighborhood, we can easily make a few modifications to our Halloween practices that can help everyone feel welcome and included. Here are a few suggestions:
- Consider giving your trick-or-treaters fair warning if you enjoy a spooky Halloween. Perhaps you can post a sign that points to your front door that warns, “Those who want a fun Halloween scare, go this way…” and another sign that points to your back door that indicates, “Those who prefer a friendly face, please go this way.” Have your spouse or a teen helper take over that station, and parents can help their kids decide which choice is best.
- If you are aware that kids in your neighborhood have food sensitivities, consider offering a choice of candy or pocket money. Tie up a couple of shiny dimes or a quarter in a Halloween bag for kids who can’t have candy.
- Chat with your kids about their Halloween plans, and gently suggest they include someone who may not have plans. The child who is invited may refuse, but for kids who are frequently left out of such activities, the invitation alone is priceless.
- Invite a child who can’t trick-or-treat to hang out with you for a couple of hours. For kids whose health is fragile or for those who have disabilities that make trick-or-treating impractical, a special invitation to your house could make a tremendous difference. In addition, this might allow parents to assist others in the family with Halloween activities…or just have a couple of hours of rest.
- Go easy on kids’ manners. In the best of circumstances, Halloween is exciting and overwhelming. For kids who struggle with language, impulse control or social skills, waiting for their turn politely or saying, “thank you so much” just might not happen. Be sure to send every kid off with a warm, and heart-felt, “Thank you for coming…I was so happy to see you!”
None of these ideas is ground-breaking of course…just a few simple ways to spread a little love and “treat” your neighbors to a great Halloween. Enjoy!