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Halloween: Kids, scary costumes & sugar



The American Halloween tradition has hit our shores with vengeance. We are now faced with responding to this new parenting curve ball. Whilst this marketing concept did not commence in Australia it now looks like it is here to stay.


So what boundaries do I put around trick and treating? What is a suitable costume choice for my child and how do I support my child who is terrified of this concept?


Scary Costumes

Have appropriate boundaries for your child dependent on their age and emotional development. Not every 6 year old can embrace the concept of dressing up in something horror related or seeing someone else dressed up in scary costumes. The ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy is associated with chronological age. The personality of the child, their temperament and their emotional responses are important factors to consider.


  • If your child does not want to be involved in Halloween activities, then ensure that you make it safe for them to say “no”.

  • Provide alternative options, explain that they will have many years to participate in Halloween

  • Come up with your own Halloween traditions.


Trick or Treating

The concept of approaching a stranger’s home for treats and/or threatening to “punish” them for not producing is an unusual concept. It would seem that the Australian adaptation of this is much more about the treat than the trick however it is important that you have this conversation with your child. Whilst a “trick” may be viewed as a “joke” if everyone isn’t laughing then it’s not funny!


  • Small groups with an adult in charge can work.

  • Neighbour conventions such as signs or decorations that indicate that trick or treaters are welcome need to be established.

  • A limited time frame and a negotiated area to visit needs to be made clear.

  • This event can be a good opportunity to build community relations.

  • It can be helpful to teach children social skills about approaching others

  • For younger children there needs to be some awareness of the type of costumes that their peers or older children will be wearing. Ensure that they are aware of this.

  • Have an exit plan, a safe cue that gives your child the opportunity to leave safely.

  • Feigned illness...which isn’t a lie as feeling anxious brings on physical response, is a useful one for saving face.

  • Receiving a message from Mum or Dad which says “I have to get back home” is a great exit strategy for older children who may not be coping.

  • Minimise the number of streets or houses you will visit.

  • Under no circumstances do they consume any food obtained until they get home.

What about older children?

What do you do when your 10 year old or 13 year old wants to roam the streets with their peers asking for free lollies? Is this a parenting nightmare for you?

Some say that 12 years onwards is an appropriate time to trick or treat independently. If you are not comfortable with this then find a work around.

  • Let the older group go ahead a few streets whilst you follow the same path with the younger group. The key here is follow....not stalk.

  • As children get older trick or treating becomes less about the lollies and more about the costumes and being part of an experience.

  • Remember if your feel that you as a parent are not ready for your child to take these independent steps, if you don’t know where they are going to be going, what the plan is and who they will be with then you say “no”.

  • Tune into the gut instinct that every parent possesses. Parenting is about boundaries...do not get guilted into saying yes because you are of the belief that your child will be a social outcast if they don’t attend.

  • If you can then come up with some compromises that you are prepared to make, this should be in advance....you can go in daylight, or for this time frame or visit this area.

  • Having children travelling to other areas to do this is not part of the tradition.

  • Make sure your child knows what appropriate behaviour is.

  • If there are older then they need to be aware of the impact of their actions on younger groups they come across.

  • Ensure that they respect people’s homes and properties

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© 2019 Deirdre Brandner Psychologist