Parents can avoid transforming into monsters during Halloween by embracing the holiday and establishing clear expectations for their children, says Jill Walls, a Ball State University professor who specializes in child development.
“Halloween can be a fun event for the entire family,” Walls says. “The fun of Halloween is not all about the candy, or at least, it doesn’t have to be. Children get to dress up in costumes, and there are other ‘treats’ parents can incorporate into the evening. Color a spooky picture, carve pumpkins, bob for apples in a pot of water, tell spooky stories or read a book together. In today’s hectic and on-the-go lifestyle, time together can be even sweeter than candy.”
She says the most important step in planning for a fun Halloween is to talk about the event with youngsters, preparing them for what is to come (known as pre-arming in the parenting literature).
When children know what to expect and what’s expected of them, they are more likely to conform to parents’ expectations. Toddlers and preschoolers might even enjoy rehearsing before you go out – at this age they often enjoy pretend play, Walls says.
“Some children may be scared to approach the house of unfamiliar people – practicing ahead of time might lessen those fears, but it’s important that parents not push children to the door if they are uncomfortable. Walk with them or have them hold the hand of a friend. If they prefer to stay back, that’s OK too.”
She also advises parents to have fun and relax:
• Acknowledge children’s excitement around this special event.
• This is a time to make memories.
• Although parents want to document this day with pictures and videos, remember to be present with your child and soak up this time with them. It’s OK to put the camera away and simply enjoy being in the moment with your child.