Parenting Q & A

Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Heights Parent Center (now known as Family Connections) for the last 12 years, fields questions from parents about the daily ups and downs of parenting. If you have questions you would like Ellen to respond to, e-mail her at

Q.  My husband has been anticipating Halloween all summer, and is really excited to take our 15-month-old out trick or treating this year. We’ve picked out the perfect (and cute!) dinosaur costume, and want all the neighbors to see him, but I’m worried about scaring him. I don’t want to disappoint my husband, but also don’t want to upset our son. How can we all enjoy Halloween?

A.  Halloween is a favorite holiday for both parents and kids. Costumes, pumpkin carving and colorful decorations allow for expressing creativity and humor. But scary masks, strange glowing lights and frightening images and music can take the fun out and leave kids scared and confused. Adults sometimes forget that children might not understand even the simplest of Halloween traditions, like wearing different and often uncomfortable clothing, or going door to door, encountering many new faces.

Most kids can experience all the fun and whimsy of Halloween if parents protect them from the scary sights and sounds, and keep in mind each child’s age and temperament. Here are a few tips to make Halloween enjoyable for all:

  • Read Halloween books with kids ahead of time, so they’ll know what to expect. Try Trick or Treat by Melanie Walsh or Mouse’s First Halloween by Lauren Thompson (for toddlers) and By the Light of the Halloween Moon by Caroline Stutson (for preschoolers.)
  • Make sure the costume you choose is a familiar character and comfortable to wear. Stay away from masks, bulky costumes, so your child can see well and walk easily.
  • Take your child to only a few familiar neighbors while it is still light and skip houses with elaborate decorations.
  • Consider organizing a neighborhood party or going to a community party.These events tend to be more child-friendly and focus on games and activities rather than blood and gore.
  • If your child seems at all hesitant or fearful, wait until next year. By nature, some kids are more fearful or hesitant. You, as the parent, you are the best person to gauge that.

Make sure you and your husband have a chance take part in all of the prefestivities with your son, such as pumpkin carving, roasting pumpkin seeds and simple decorating so you can help him learn about the fun and festive parts of Halloween. Let your son ease slowly into the scarier elements as he grows and matures.   

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Volume 3, Issue 10, Posted 12:08 PM, 09.24.2010