Halloween Fun from Costumes to Trick or Treating for Sensory-Sensitive Kids
The excitement for Halloween starts building early for most kids – costumes, candy and goosebumps. But for children with anxiety or sensory processing issues, Halloween presents a unique challenge for parents.
Leaha Jones with Memorial Behavioral Health offers these tips to help minimize Halloween stress:
Children with sensory issues may struggle with wearing various types of fabrics or textures like an itchy tag or tight collar.
- Allow your child to go to the store and touch different costumes.
- Wash the costume a few times to soften the fabric, which may help with textures.
- Wear comfortable clothing underneath the costume.
- Be aware that masks can pose a potential struggle. Some kids may feel more anxious wearing a mask because it limits their vision. Others may feel safer with the anonymity that a mask provides.
- Offer a couple of different costume options. The cutest costume won’t matter if the child refuses to wear it for Halloween festivities.
Between misty foghorns, spider webs and spooky music, children with heightened sensory awareness experience Halloween much differently than the typical child – think of the stress involved in walking door-to-door, talking to strangers and waiting in line on doorsteps, even being engulfed in large crowds. Role play trick-or-treating ahead of time to help your child feel more comfortable when it comes to the real thing.
Don’t be impatient if your child becomes nervous, shy or scared. Your ability to be supportive and encouraging is going to make this experience tolerable and even fun. You know your child best. If you notice they are overstimulated, offer a break or distraction. Go home for a short break and return once regulated.
Pass Out Treats with a Patient Perspective
Each child has different skill sets and comfort levels. Consider the following when you pass out treats to the trick-or-treaters who show up on your doorstep.
- Fine motor skills: Some children may lack the finger strength to grasp one piece of candy and instead use their whole hand to scoop candy out of the bowl. They aren’t acting out.
- Non-verbal language: Some children may utilize sign language to say trick or treat or thank you. Others may not say anything at all and just hold out their bucket.
- No costume: Some children may not wear a costume at all due to sensory issues and that’s okay. Don’t respond in a negative way or ask “where is your costume?” or “what are you dressed up as?”
- Older children: Many think teenagers are too old for trick-or-treating. Consider allowing it, even encouraging it. If a teenager wants to spend an evening being a child and having fun in a positive way, let them be a kid.
Remember – be kind and patient with every child. Unlike physical health disorders, mental health is often disguised. You never know what a child is going through inside. Smile, be friendly and make Halloween a great holiday for all to enjoy.