Halloween is one of the most exciting nights of the year. Kids spend months looking forward to it — picking out costumes, telling spooky stories, and “scaring” Mom and Dad with pranks… plus, there’s jack-o’-lantern carving (or, safer, face painting), and of course, all that free CANDY!
Here are a few great ways to keep Halloween silliness from turning into fright night.
Make a Candy Plan
Your tyke may want to devour that whole haul of candy in one sitting. Yikes Sugar overload can cause upset tummies. And, sugar, chocolate, and artificial colors and flavors are a recipe for hyperactive hell, turning a sweet Hello Kitty into a man-eating tiger. So, discuss ahead of time your candy rule: eating one piece of candy per year of her age… every day. (Maybe even giving some to a poor family or homeless shelter in your neighborhood.)
Prepare for Potential Allergies
Your kiddo might have an allergic reaction to face paint, latex masks, or something in the candy. Call your doctor if you notice an itchy rash, swollen eyes or lips, or a hoarse voice. A dab of hydrocortisone cream and a dose of antihistamine (ask your doctor before using) should help with most reactions, but you’ll need to get to the E.R. stat if your little vampire is coughing, wheezing, or having trouble breathing.
Ensure Your Kids’ Costumes Are Safe
Keep in mind that long costumes that trail on the floor can cause stumbles — and too much fabric over the arms can make it impossible for kids to reach out to break a fall, causing nasty face and head injuries. Even the plastic bags costumes are packed in can be a suffocation risk for little kids. Go over your kids’ selections before you buy, nix any outfits that are cause for concern, and dispose of the plastic packaging pronto.
Steer Clear of Dangerous Accessories and Decor Elements
Candles can light costumes on fire. Silly string can also catch alight (and irritate eyes if sprayed in the face). And dry ice (that stuff used to make spooky fog in punch or buckets of water) is very, very cold and can cause serious burns.
Be Prepared for a Trick-or-Treating Panic Attack
Little kids can have a hard time telling the difference between what’s real from what’s fake. So scary masks and spooky decorations can make your munchkin freeze in fear.
If this happens, don’t start by saying, “It’s not real!” and that he shouldn’t be afraid. (You can end your message with that… once he calms down.) Acknowledge that he IS afraid using the simple 3-step technique of “Toddler-ese”:
1) Voice his concern in one- to four-word phrases
2) Repeat it a few times so he knows you really understand
3) Say it with empathy, reflecting about one-third of his emotion in your tone of voice and body/facial gestures.
Here’s an example: “Scary! Scary!! That skeleton jumped out and was scary… scary! Let’s walk away and be in a safe place. Mommy is strong! I’ll protect you!”
(For lots more on calming kids’ fears, check out Dr. Karp’s book/DVD The Happiest Toddler on the Block.)
Don’t be Shocked by Monsters That Visit in the Night
Post-Halloween nightmares can last for days or weeks! Fortunately, several simple steps can help send these monsters packing. Check the closet and under the bed for a few nights to show that there are no monsters there. Use a nightlight or give your kiddos a flashlight to keep at their bedside to turn on anytime they’re worried. Or get creative with a little magic. A spray bottle filled with water can be your “monster spray,” guaranteed to repel any mean ghost, goblin, or ghoul.
Have fun this Halloween. But don’t you get too tricky. As tempting as it might be, please refrain from sneaking espresso-laced candies into the bag of the child of that one neighbor who keeps blocking your driveway lest he repay you in kind next year!
Dr. Harvey Karp has been a specialist in children’s health and development for over 30 years. Over a million parents have used Dr. Karp’s techniques for making their kids – and families – happy. His landmark publications, The Happiest Baby on the Block, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, and Dr. Karp Live: A Conversation about Babies, Toddlers and Sleep, have been translated into over 20 languages and their popularity has made Dr. Karp the most-read pediatrician in America. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.