Costumes, masks and candy...what's not to love? Parents may think Halloween is a golden opportunity to dress up their toddler or preschooler and show them off to the neighborhood. But, if you're a very young child or a particularly shy or cautious one, it turns out there's plenty about Halloween NOT to love. Parents should look at their little one's temperament and decide how to best approach the event to reduce disappointment all-around. Here are 5 ways the night might go astray.
1) If your child is afraid of the dark. If your son or daughter is still in the phase of nightlights and "please leave the door open", consider scheduling your trick or treating early and keep the outing brief. Otherwise, the monster in the closet may seem like only too real a possibility, and you may have a rough night ahead.
2) If your toddler is in the phase of 'stranger anxiety'. This period, usually between 6 and 18 months, is when children are naturally worried about being around other adults. While this is a healthy attachment phase, it can make for an awkward and uncomfortable night of apologizing for your crying child.
3) If your child is in the stranger-danger stage. Even though you are nearby (and the 'strange' adults are really neighbors), preschool children may be hesitant to go trick or treating. At this developmental phase, their view of the world is very black and white: people who look mean ARE mean, and only known adults can be trusted. So if a pirate opens the door, offering candy, you can understand how this might be confusing to a child who was told earlier in the week not to speak to strangers!
4) If your child has a very shy temperament. Maybe she's thrown off by loud noises or needs extra time to approach new situations. Trick-or-treating can be very stressful for children like this, so limit the number of houses you approach and narrate as you go. For example: "This is the nice lady who helps you cross the street. I bet she'd love to see you all dressed up as Hermione." And if your child shakes her head or pulls back, let her be.
5) If your youngster has been in childcare all day. Children under age 5 are often out-of-the-house for much longer hours than in decades past. If your family has been up since the break of dawn and already done a dropoff or two, think about whether it's truly worth going out for trick or treating. Perhaps you can have your child dress up and help hand out the candy. Or the family could go to a Halloween party on the weekend when everyone is less exhausted. Think creatively of how to enjoy the experience of pretend without having a meltdown.
The bottom line is Halloween is generally a blast for older kids, but your little one may not be mature enough to enjoy the activity of trick-or-treating. Parents often spend a lot of money on a costume only to find out the child finds the mask stuffy after three minutes or has changed their favorite Superhero overnight. Try to remember that for little children, dressing up and receiving candy is fun for a short period of time. Pretty soon, they'll just want to go home. Halloween, as it turns out, isn't for "All Souls."
A proud Parenting Guru, Boston Irish is actually Maureen O'Brien, PhD (aka Dr. Mo). She is a psychologist, parenting coach, workshop speaker and mother of twins. Her latest book is called Advantage Mom: 20 Lessons from a Parenting Pro, available exclusively atwww.destinationparenting.com .