A few tips to keep Halloween fun for the entire family (and avoid any late night, overstimulated, sugar induced meltdowns):
BY Dr. Allie Ticktin
October 23, 2023
Halloween is one of my favorite memories as a child. Growing up in the midwest, it was so much fun to run as fast as we could house to house hoping to find the house with the coveted full size candy bar. I remember one time in 5th grade I was SO excited for trick or treating. We had a half day at school and a reading quiz the next morning. I came home and read the chapter I needed to read and then went off to the halloween celebrations. I read every word, but was just so excited that I could not focus. The next day, when it came time for the quiz, I failed. I did not retain a single that that I had read. Why? Because I was not regulated - there was too much going on.
That is the thing about Halloween, all of the excitement also tends to come hand in hand with dysregulation. This halloween, here are a few tips to keep halloween fun and avoid any meltdowns:
Drop the expectations
Halloween is often one of those holidays that comes with expectations (both kid and parent expectations). You dream of that perfect family halloween costume or the adorable photo of your little ones all dressed up by the pumpkin. Kids often dream of filling their bag of candy and running from house to house with their friends. When we go in with these expectations, it makes it more difficult when things don’t pan out as planned.
Instead, go in with no expectations and follow your little one’s cues. They may not want to wear a costume, and that is ok! If a house it too scary for them, skip it. If you notice that they are beginning to become overstimulated, find a small quiet spot and take a little book to let their sensory system reset. Perhaps you only go to one house or non at all and pass out candy instead.
Prepare your little one as well, letting them know the plan and also talking about flexibility, listening to their body and telling them it is ok if we need to take a break. You may even want to bring a body tool along!
Start with quiet time before the fun
Halloween is filled with stimulation! We want their little bodies to have a chance to reset before the fun begins.
I suggest taking a long nap before trick or treating. Your little one may be have trouble sleeping because they are so excited. If that is the case, try to use a sound machine, sleeptime meditation or read a book to help them fall asleep. If your little one, can’t sleep or no longer naps, have quiet time. Try to avoid screens during quiet time and instead rest with a book or listen to a calm audio book cuddled up on the coach.
This is a good time to have siblings play separately rather than together, avoiding any rough and tumble play and extra stimulation. Once quiet time is finished, begin getting ready slowly and try not to rush - that can add to the dysregulation. We want kids to start the night feeling calm and rested.
Set expectations before trick or treating
Halloween is a good time to set a family plan. Set any rules prior to leaving the house and be as specific as possible with your plan. If you are going to go trick or treating on two streets, choose those two streets and let your little ones know.
This is especially important when it comes to eating the candy. If your little one has the choice to eat 2 pieces of candy and the rest will be saved, make that explicit before going trick or treating. I suggest even making a “now candy” box. You can put a number on the box this way they know how many pieces they will choose. You can also make a later box. Continue to use these boxes in the following days when your little one asks for more of their candy.
Go over bedtime routine and expectations prior to trick or treating as well. It is a big night and the routine will look different, but help your little ones know what to expect. Lay out all pajamas and even clothes for the next day to make the evening go smoothly - they will be tired after a long night of trick or treating and that is when meltdowns happen. Preparation will help get ahead of these meltdowns.
Keep it short
Halloween can be a long night, but often this is too much for little ones. Keep the night short - maybe only trick or treating down one street instead of 5 (and set that in your plan). You may also choose to dress up at home and do family trick or treating from room to room and then stick to your typical bedtime and routine.
Don’t feel pressured to go to every event or party. Do what feels right for your little one.
The most important thing on Halloween is to enjoy it as a family and have fun! We are so excited to be hosting a halloween party at P2P this year and invite all of you to come! Check it out here!