Growing up, Halloween was a joyful, festive time. I loved trick-or-treating, getting together with neighbors and friends, and sorting and trading candy at the end of the night.
Today, there are Jack-O-Lanterns, candles, spooky decorations, candy, and costumes just like when I was a child, but I see it all through a different lens – one of a child with Autism and SPD, which means many of those things I once regarded as fun I now view as potential triggers of distress for my child.
Will one bad experience ruin Halloween for him forever? Will others be understanding? Will he be able to eat the candy he receives? Will he be able to wear a costume? Will he have a meltdown? How is this going to go, Lord? are all questions that have raced through my mind as we approached the holiday each year. But, over time, here is what I have learned:
- Halloween should be fun. If that means sitting in your living room watching It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown or snuggling by a fire or treating the day like any other Friday night, do that! Do what brings your family comfort and joy.
- Halloween is not a competition. In today’s culture, there is so much competitiveness surrounding who has the most/the best of something. In the case of Halloween, this is usually centered on who has the cutest costume, the best decorations, the most candy at the end of the night. I have fallen into this trap, friends. I so have. But here’s what I’m learning – children think the most or best of a situation when they feel comfortable and loved. So, if they feel uncomfortable in a scratchy costume, bag it! If they feel most comfortable going to three houses instead of thirty, go to three! If they want the experience of trick-or-treating but feel too overwhelmed by the sights and sounds, trick-or-treat at your own home! Make the day your own, not a competition.
- Halloween is one day. One day out of 365 and if it is a day that doesn’t work for your family, that is ok! Over the years, our family’s perspective has shifted on holidays and we are learning to approach them with joy for what they are – a day together as a family. If we are able to add in decorations or trick-or-treating or a meal with friends, then we do. If it does not work for us, we focus on being together as a family and on celebrating the day for one simple reason: we love being together.
Last year, Jack was The Cat in the Hat, which he was the year before as well. It was comfortable for him, so it was comfortable for us. We went to three houses and called it a night. We came home, ate a few pieces of candy, and talked about the evening – all 8 minutes of it :) – and it was great!
Some things about Halloween feel different than they did when I was a little girl, but you know what? It is still a joyful and festive day. We just had to find our way to what worked best for us, and you can too, friend. Whatever Halloween may mean for your family, embrace it. Your family is wonderful, beautiful, and amazing exactly as it is.