A parent's guide to Halloween

stockphotopro_242309ucw_belated_happy_haHalloween. For kids, it’s a once-a-year opportunity to dress up as someone (or something) else for a night, adventure around the neighborhood after dark and, of course, stockpile candy. But along with the thrills comes some serious considerations. We talked to Children’s psychiatrist Stuart Goldman, MD, about appropriate costumes, scary decorations and how to make the candy last.

This year, it seems like most of the costumes marketed towards kids are inappropriate. How do you explain to kids why they can’t have that sexy outfit, or why the neighbor kids are wearing itty bitty nurse outfits or gruesomely gory getups?

Parents should have a discussion with their child about costumes before trick or treating, explaining the reasons why people dress up for Halloween. The point of Halloween is to have fun and to celebrate. Just because a child can dress up like a “sexy witch” doesn’t mean that they should. Children’s costumes should be playful and should not sexualize a child. If the child wants a costume that a parent thinks is inappropriate, they should clearly explain why it’s not a good costume for a child. Parents need to set limits without feeling bad about it.  Guidelines are important, and parents should be able to say no.

What about appropriate costumes for parents?

Parents need to ask themselves, “Who are you dressing up for?” Save the scary costume for an adult Halloween party and wear something more fun and playful while out trick-or-treating with the kids.

How careful should parents be about exposing young kids to scary decorations?

For young kids, decorations can be terrifying. Parents need to know their own children and what scares them. It’s okay to skip that scary house on your trip because there are plenty of other houses to get candy from.

When is it okay to let kids go trick-or-treating without adult supervision?

In my opinion, all children 14 years old and younger should be accompanied by an adult, even if the parent is just trailing behind them.

How can parents keeps their kids from eating all of their Halloween candy at once?

This is an area where parents need to set guidelines. Save your candy in good place and meter it out over time. This will teach your kids moderation with sweets.

5 thoughts on “A parent's guide to Halloween

  1. Hi,

    Many patients dressed up today and trick-or-treated throughout the hospital. We’re going to post photos of some of them shortly. We’re hoping readers send in photos of their costumed kids, so we can share them with other readers. If you have one/some, please email it to us at thrive@childrens.harvard.edu.

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