Susan C. Stone's Practical Parenting Blog dotcom

Halloween Safety

It’s that bewitching time of year again – Halloween. It’s become one of our most celebrated national events with a huge commercial buildup and awaited with great anticipation by kids of all ages. It’s crazy, it’s fun, it’s harmless – or is it? It can be all of the good  things as long as you prepare your children for it.

YOUNG CHILDREN: They are excited to pick out their costumes and to GET CANDY! However, there are a few things parents need to be aware of. First, while children may have a particular costume in mind, it’s important that you deem it age-approprate. Children are exposed to such a variety of characters through the media or through older siblings that they may want to make an inappropriate decision in their costume choice. It’s your responsibility to steer them away from characters that are too scary or too mature. For example, it’s not a good idea to have a young child wear a Freddie Krueger mask. It will scare their friends and send the wrong message about the fun of Halloween. Likewise, you would want to steer a young girl away from dressing like Lady Gaga in some of her more outrageous and MTV-appropriate attire. You may want to ask yourself how your child even has knowledge of such characters. Perhaps your screening of media input needs to be tightened a bit. You also need to be aware if your child is frightened by masks or clown attire – a common phobia. You may have to explain to them that these  are only costumes, pick a Halloween activity that is controlled and benign or, if they are truly traumatized, set up a Halloween event with a few friends that takes place at home.

As to the candy, make sure you inspect it before it’s eaten. All candies should be wrapped in their original wrappers. Then there’s the question of quantity! Your child will likely end up with a cache of candy that’s way too much for them to eat without getting a serious sugar high and a few cavities to go with that.  Some parents decide to  take away some of the candy and dole it out over a period of time. Others ask their children to pick an acceptable number of pieces and then donate the rest to children who may not have experienced Trick or Treating.

Which brings me to the subject of the actual activity of Trick or Treating. There are two issues to consider with young children. If you decide to go door to door, you need to explain to young children that you are aware of which houses and strangers are safe to approach for treats. You don’t want to go against your year round teaching against approaching just any strangers. Secondly, some areas are known for their rowdy Trick or Treating behavior by older kids. One way to avoid this is to go early and be gone by the time the older kids arrive. Another option is to take advantage of the planned events found in most communities either at a mall, park or other publicly sponsored event.

OLDER CHILDREN: By the time  your child is in middle school, they may (definitely) not want you to go to each house with them. While understandable, you need to set some parameters to keep them safe. Perhaps you’ll be in a car nearby or set a very limited area for them to Trick or Treat – say, a few blocks close to your house, a gated community or a public event. They need to have a definite starting and stopping time and need to remain in a group. They need to be reminded that if someone invites them into their house for a treat, they are NOT allowed to enter. Middle schoolers and older kids also need to be reminded of your values – that they respect the property of others. The purpose of Halloween needs to remain  having silly fun but not destructive “fun” – no shaving cream, toilet papering, or egg- throwing.

It’s also a good idea to go over the candy with your older kids before they dig into it. You need to use your judgment about how much they should indulge. The idea of a donation is equally valid for older Trick or Treaters.

All this having been said, have a  HAPPY (and safe) HALLOWEEN!!!

Susan C. Stone is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice. She speaks widely – on television, radio, and in Parent Education Seminars – on topics of interest to parents and teachers of children of all ages. She is also the author of the book THE INDULGENCE TRAP.  Visit her on her website at http://www.susancstonemft.com or contact her at scsmft@aol.com.

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