Halloween is an exciting time for most kids, but for a highly sensitive child, it can be a nightmarish time. Your child may be autistic or may have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) or is just much more sensitive than other children, and would find Halloween overwhelming. Loud music blaring from homes would be stressful for him/her. Going on unfamiliar routes too might upset your kid. But you can make Halloween an enjoyable experience for your kid – here’s how to celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid:
How to celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid
A sensory sensitive child has a heightened sense of touch, smell, hearing, sight, body awareness and movement. Think about all the senses and find out the one which stresses your child the most and avoid it.
Prepare your kid
The first thing you could do to allay his fears of Halloween, is to talk to your kid, and explain everything about Halloween. All the sights and sounds and wearing costumes etc, so that he/she knows what they are getting into, by discussing all the unfamiliar situations which they might encounter.
Costumes should be comfortable
A child with sensory issues may find costumes challenging, especially store bought ones. If your child is very small, he/she may not be able to express the discomfort. Some sensitive children find certain costumes itchy, so trying on their Halloween costume before the actual day is a good idea. After you try the costume on, if they cry or get angry or get upset, know that the costume will not work for them. Or let them wear their pajamas or other soft clothes under the costume, so that they will not feel the fabric of the costume.
To celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid, you can completely ditch the costume. Your kid may not like dressing up, so let him/her be dressed in their regular clothes. You can have him sit on a wagon, and dress up the wagon instead!
As costumes are a huge part of Halloween, we’re elaborating a bit more on it. Wearing regular clothes might make your child feel left out, so make some innovations, such as getting them to wear a silly T-shirt. Incorporating tools like noise canceling earphones/headphones and painting their regular T-shirts with fluorescent paint which will not seep into the skin is another way.
Avoid face masks and paints
Try to make Halloween enjoyable for your highly sensitive kid, by doing only what they like. Avoid masks as this might hamper their sense of balance, which might make going upstairs or downstairs a very challenging task. As for paint, most sensory sensitive kids cannot bear paint on their face. You might make them wear Halloween themed colored glasses instead, which they can open or wear whenever they want.
Go on familiar paths for trick-or- treating
You must know by now that familiarity is the key to keeping your child with sensory issues calm and happy. When you go trick-or-treating, stay on the paths you usually go for walks in the neighborhood. Visit the neighbors or relatives your child knows well. Also, be tuned in to them, and go back home when he/she indicates that they had enough.
Maintain your routines
Sensitive children get disturbed by their schedules being disrupted. This is true for all holidays, not just Halloween. Take care not to have so many activities that they extend beyond their bedtime, especially if your child is on autism spectrum. This might lead to a meltdown. You could celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid and his/her siblings in the daytime.
One couple who had two children on the autism spectrum had a great idea -they celebrated Halloween by closing their bedroom door, and the kids trick-or-treated right at home. They knocked on the bedroom door, and their parents treated them with their favorite candy!
Have a good backup plan
Be flexible and prepared if things don’t turn out as expected. You can make Halloween enjoyable by opting other Halloween activities which are held during the daytime. These activities are fun but not scary which may be the best way to celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid. Many churches and communities offer fall parties where the party is during the day and you don’t have to wear costumes if you don’t want to.
Talk to the school
Talk to the teacher and the school about your child’s sensory issues and get their co-operation. Some schools already have special celebration programmes for sensitive children on Halloween. They have a costume parade instead of a party, use stories to prepare the kids to know what to expect and help them understand the feel of a pumpkin inside and out. If your child is in a regular school, you can do these activities at home explaining and telling stories.
After you talk with the teacher, the teacher might agree to let them participate as long as they are not overwhelmed. In this way, your child can be a part of the festivities without having to step out of his/her comfort zone.
Help them to verbalize
Sensitive children are often shy too. They may find it hard to talk to strangers, when they go out trick-or-treating. Some people might not understand a child unable to speak has severe anxiety issues. To help your child cope with all kinds of people and celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid, let him/her practice saying ‘trick-or-treat’ at home. This will improve their confidence and he’ll be screaming ‘trick-or-treat’ with the other kids in no time! And if he doesn’t, well, you do it for him!
Keep things calm
Halloween is a time when it’s virtually impossible to keep any kid calm. But keeping your highly sensitive child is an important goal so that you can celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid in the best way possible. Practice calming activities such as jumping on the trampoline, sucking applesauce through straws, chewing ice chips or just gnawing at a bagel. And as you must be already doing, calm your child with calming words. And go on the less noisy streets for ‘trick-or-treating’.
The best way to celebrate Halloween with highly sensitive kid is to make your own traditions and special celebrations according to your child’s needs. You can start a tradition of painting pumpkins, baking things or going out for a movie.