For many of the parents I speak with, Halloween marks the beginning of stress, chaos and increased sugar consumption that stays with us for 3 to 4 and maybe even 5 months. They are twisted with worries of keeping their children safe, hoping their social experience is positive and that they can handle the stimulation around trick-or-treating in their community. Burdened by the commercial tradition of a race for candy consumption and whether their child will be a greedy little monster or a polite and appropriate (by the parents’ standards) consumer. It is so much for some to navigate that I have heard they abandon the holiday all together, instead of finding a way to focus on creating the sweetest parts of Halloween.
Whether you look forward to this time of year, find yourself avoiding the inevitable or feeling as though you have no choice but to just give in and ride the train of tricks and treats, I’d like to suggest you consider this an opportunity to create rich meaningful time together as a family and support your child in bringing the character of their choice to life. Halloween provides the time and place for children of all ages to be in character and potentially show themselves through creative symbolic expression within families and in the community, in a developmentally productive and safe manner.
A Time to Be in Costume
This halloween season, take a moment to divert the focus over to the creation and all that goes along with being in character. Conversations around planning provide the context for the preparation through imagining and then assembling each part that brings the character to life using the costume as a boundary. When you as the parent show interest in the chosen character your child will feel empowered by their decision. Creating a playful dialogue around the metaphor and acknowledging the temporary wishes to be scary, silly or serious is a way of joining and guiding them through this creative expression.
The Power of Metaphor and Play
My experiences training and working alongside my Drama Therapy colleagues taught me to appreciate the inherent boundaries and context for dressing up in character that allows for safe personal expression. As parents you can support the acting while your child is in costume by addressing them by their character’s name and jumping into the fantasy world with them. This playful connection can be a useful aid when it is time to transition from the character within when it’s time to remove and put away the costume.
As Candy Disappears The Costume Remains the Sweetest Part
The time together using materials and finding props communicates support and festivity and will create an experience for your child that lasts long after completion. The boundaries and context of play can continue to flourish when the character is needed again. As we move inside more, dramatic play, safely supported, will continue to provide health and wellness through the sensory, movement, executive function and self-regulation processes inherent in this activity.
You can also practice containment and care of the costume when the outfit is removed and put away so that they are accessible and functioning when the opportunity or need is present in our future afternoons and weekends.
By engaging with your child around the opportunity to create, play and care for a character of their choice, you are diverting them from the commercialization and hype of the holiday, and creating a safe space for symbolic expression. I encourage you to take a moment and attend to your child’s imagination and participate in the playful development of their inner wishes. It will go a long way to creating memorable moments that last throughout the year. And who knows you might have a little childlike fun and actually look forward to how you choose to create Halloween, again and again.
To learn more ways of regulating, connecting, and de-stressing the holidays, contact me to learn about the Family Consult.