October is a time for fall festivals, dressing up in fun costumes, and trick or treating. For some children, Halloween can be overwhelming and sometimes scary; children in foster care are not any different. Children in care have potentially already experienced terrifying, horrific, scary events that have left them somewhat fearful. Bodies remember traumatic events even though the person may not acknowledge the fear. Their hearts race, breathing becomes shallow, and they may spiral into survival mode. It might even bring about an overwhelming sense of dread and panic. All of these things can be a trigger for a child of trauma. Triggers can send children right to survival mode, and once in survival mode, they go into fight, flight, or freeze. We want our children to feel safe and secure to enjoy this holiday with their peers. As you begin to plan your holiday activities, keep these ideas and points in mind.
As the day approaches, sit down with your children and discuss any concerns they may have about Halloween. This could be their first time dressing up, or they don’t know what to expect when they are out trick or treating. Help ease any anxiety by discussing with them what to expect on the day and before any events. Make a decision on whether the family will be going door to door, to trunk or treat events, or possibly even staying home and having fun decorating pumpkins and watching a movie. If you are going out, make sure to make a decision on how much candy is too much candy for the night and how long you plan on staying out.
Keep Your Child’s Needs In Mind
Think about your child’s sensory needs when planning your activities. When determining how long you plan to stay out, keep your child’s sensory needs in mind. Children who have sensory issues may have trouble in dark, loud, or crowded environments. Flashing lights and itchy costumes could also be an unwelcome trigger. If this is true of the child in your home, you may need to avoid certain activities and stimuli for a sensory-friendly Halloween. Let your child know ahead of time how long you are going out for. If your child tires easily or tends to melt down past 8 p.m., it’s best to start early, stay close to home, and try to stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible. If you decide to venture further from home, make sure you take breaks and check in with how your child is doing/feeling. Do not wait for a meltdown.
Choosing a costume
Let them decide what they want to be, but make sure it is weather and age appropriate. You can search for clever, last-minute ideas together or opt for a store-bought costume. Make sure your child is comfortable.
Make a candy plan
School Halloween parties, trunk-or-treat gatherings, and fall fests can all account for a large amount of candy. Some families use a candy buy-back plan option, with children keeping some candy and then trading the candy for an agreed-upon gift or toy from the parents. Below are ways to donate candy to other organizations with links.
Click here for a list of upcoming Fall Festivals!
By Marilyn Robinson, Family Care Director