Trick or Treating can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful not just for parents but for kids too. Let me paint a picture for you…
Your kids are super excited to get candy but turn to frozen statues at the end of the driveway. The moment they put on their costume they want to take it off, or they complain about the cold, the dark, the walking, or the flavor of lollipop they got. Next thing you know you have a crying child that you are carrying down the block because you know they will be upset if they don’t have candy to pick through… (and you secretly want all the snickers for yourself.) but you feel terrible that they aren’t enjoying this event and this isn’t what you planned for.
I’m not surprised that kids don’t like it! Think about it….
It’s dark – might be cold too depending on where you live
everyone is in costume (disguise)
you can’t see everyone’s face
people are trying to scare you
big kids are running by in groups
you are told to go to a strangers house to ring the doorbell, say “trick or treat” and get some candy?!
Ummmm – this goes against ALL of the rules we’ve ever been taught! We tell kids NOT to talk to strangers. Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t go out at night. This is even more challenging and confusing for kids who have communication, sensory, physical, or social difficulties.
So, to help make trick or treating fun for ALL kids, here are some things to consider when making your plans. I also use plenty of super nerdy halloween puns… you’re welcome 🙂
Time of day
If you can avoid going at night you should.. There are lots of places that offer daytime events. If you’re going in the evening try to be mindful of your child’s bedtime and when they hit the “witching hour”. You and your child won’t have any fun if they are tired, cranky or running a muck.
Door to door is out! Find a location where they offer a one stop shop- maybe a local hotel or banquet hall, local businesses or even schools offer events hosted by trusted professionals and business owners. Bonus points if its an indoor event, that way you don’t have to worry about dealing with kids who are frozen to the bone walking 20 blocks.
Not being able to see the face of the person you are talking to is difficult. Think about being at any theme park or holiday event – Do you avoid “eye contact” like the plague when the Easter bunny approaches you? Yeah – when you can see a person’s face or eyes it takes away the communicative reciprocity and it can feel very uncomfortable. Talk with your kids about disguise and practice by wearing a mask around the house a few day prior to the event.
Find a costume that is comfortable for your child and will protect them from being too cold (and even prevent them from getting too hot!). If they start to get cranky give them a choice – would you like to go to 3 more houses and head home or do you want to go home now? Multiple kids with different wants? Dont be afraid to tag team! Trick or treat with your significant other, grandparents, friends, or neighborhood friends. I bet one person would be happy to take your littlest home while another is flying like a witch door to door.
Strangers Are Scary
Don’t force your child to go to a door they truly don’t want to. We want kids to be aware of strangers and to understand that being afraid is ok. Walk with them hand in hand to the door to show them that it’s ok. Reassure them and honor their feelings.
Some kids will freeze up at the idea of yelling TRICK OR TREAT. When kids come to my door i never make them say it. I will comment on how adorable their costume is and i always greet with a big smile. For kids who do struggle with verbal expression I have made a visual stick that i hand out at events…. Just glue the words “trick or treat” on a popsicle stick! It’s just that easy! Kids can hold it up and still participate in the event without “saying” the words. (see the special link below for your copy!)
Be mindful that tricking or treating is an event for very young kids, much older teens and all ages in between. Be aware of the crowds and try to wait so there is less chance of being knocked over or issues with personal space.
For some kids with sensory challenges or sometime those kids with Autism, how you prepare can be a saving grace. So I suggest talking about the event – discuss feelings they might have, what they might see and that it’s all going to be ok. I like to create social stories for kids to give them some positive self talk and validate their feelings. Social Stories are ways to use pictures and words to explain an event and provide a positive spin on feelings and emotions that can be felt during the event. It also gives a plan or some words to use when you feel that way. (it sounds way more confusing than it is and I have included an example below just for you!).
You could also map out the route, create a time limit, let your child know if they want to stop you will honor that. Let them walk around in their costume for a few days prior. These are all simple ways to prepare them and make them feel safe, secure, and prepared.
At the end of the day Trick or Treating should be fun and stress free. By putting in a little extra work before the big day, you take the steps to ensure you and your kids are safe, prepared, comfortable and excited! Because I want ALL kids to enjoy this once a year event I have included a copy of a trick or treating social story AND a temple for my visual “trick or treat” sign!
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