Celebrate Halloween as a Foster Family
With all the pumpkin carving, costumes and unlimited candy, Halloween has ranked up as one of the must do big celebration in the calender — but can we celebrate Halloween? What about the safety going for a trick or treat??
Like many other festivals, Halloween can be equal parts fun and overwhelming for children who are in foster care. This is especially true for children who are new to foster care and who have any history of abuse, neglect or other trauma. However, with some planning, foster carers can make Halloween both safe and sweet for the children in their care.
Unpredictable means I am not safe!
You may have learned from some of the many training you attended, the chemicals our bodies produce in a stressful situation are the same ones given off during a fun, exciting situation. This chemical release can trigger memories of past trauma. All this change or excitement can lead to reactions such as anxiety, outburst of anger or withdrawing from people. Often we can label this as 'behaviour'. Knowing this, set the bar low, such as trick-or-treating on one block instead of the entire neighborhood. It’s better to have a memorable half-hour of fun than to push on and potentially trigger intense emotions.
Anxiety is often driven by the unknown, so don't surprise, surprise! Share key information and also include children in planning which event or place will you be going to and who else will be there.
Early life experience
All these scary decorations and costumes, young children with a history of trauma may have trouble recognising what’s real and what’s pretend. So find ways to embrace the humorous or light-hearted side.
Children with sensory issues may have trouble in environments that are dark, loud, or crowded. Flashing lights and itchy costumes could also be an unwelcome trigger. If this is true of the child in your home, avoid certain activities and stimuli for a sensory-friendly Halloween.
It’s normal for parents to loosen the rules on holidays. But you should still outline what Halloween looks like in your household and this could be simple things like how much candy can they eat that night? Will you inspect their trick-or-treating hauls before they can dig in? When is bedtime? Decide on the rules and clearly communicate them.
Trick and treat is also an opportunity to reinforce safety basics that will serve children well any time of year. While dressing up a scary costume is important for Halloween night, it is equally important to have a reflective clothing, looking both ways before crossing the street, not accepting rides from strangers and so on.
October 31 is a day (and night!) to make special childhood memories. The key is to involve children and be prepared but flexible with your plans.