In our home, Halloween is a wonderful opportunity to get dressed up and hangout with our school and neighborhood friends. For my kids, their favorite part about Halloween isn’t the trick-or-treating or the classroom parties, it’s the costumes. Each year a different family member picks our Halloween costume theme. It’s a big deal for this person, as discussions commence and extend throughout the summer until we’ve nailed something down by early fall. Some years we battle the crowds at Halloween pop ups, other years we purchase our costumes online, and other years we go to the thrift store for a fun clothing and accessory quest to create our ideal costume. No matter what our King or Queen of Halloween selects, dressing up together as a family is what makes Halloween parties and trick-or-treating worthwhile.
Before selecting our costumes, there are a couple considerations: is it practical, is it permissible, and is it respectful. These are the guidelines we base our costume selections on and so far, we’ve had very minimal problems. But the most important part is the fact that we talk about our costumes together. Here’s how my family approaches costume picks:
Is it practical?
When selecting costumes, safety while walking around at night should be the number one consideration. Late October can be dark and chilly. Costumes should be weather appropriate and allow kids to move freely and see where they’re going at night. It’s also important to consider school, where Halloween parties and parades are held after recess, which means there are over twenty kids in a classroom excitedly getting dressed. An equally comical and nightmarish site to behold, you want to make sure your kid can dress themself by practicing at home. Make sure that your child puts on their costume before you send it to school with them, and that they can assemble it with minimal to no help.
Is it permissible?
When selecting costumes make sure you are following school guidelines. Costumes with weapons are (often) not allowed in schools. Costumes that are too revealing or sexually suggestive are also inappropriate and not permissible for schools, or likely the neighborhood. Schools do a great job of communicating school policy. Check the school website or look out for flyers or emails from your child’s teacher around Halloween. You can also ask your child’s teachers any question you have about what’s allowed in class.
Is it respectful?
Being a good community member is an important part of classroom and world citizenship. When selecting costumes, it’s important to be sensitive and aware of cultural or religious themes that would be perceived as harmful or hurtful to others. Why does this even matter? Cultural identity and heritage are integral to an individual’s definition of who they see themselves as. A costume might be funny or fun to you, but everyone may not be in on the joke. Cultural awareness is a byproduct of empathy and communication; allowing us to understand others by showing we respect what’s important in their lives. Because kids are in a classroom community together, it’s really important to practice awareness and empathy when making our selections.
When can my child make their own choice, and what should I do if my child insists on wearing an inappropriate costume?
Early elementary-aged students will require parents to take a more prominent role in making the final choice. By middle and high school, a check-in or your “stamp of approval” should suffice. As a parent, you must be comfortable with saying “no” or at least offering alternatives to costumes that might be questionable. Talk about why a selected costume cannot be worn. Reasoning with your child and providing evidence - safety, school policy, appropriateness, empathy - is a great social emotional learning opportunity, as it allows your child to think critically about their choices in a context that’s bigger than a Halloween costume choice.
Monitoring your child’s costume selection can be a stress-free and fun activity you do together. As you make your selection, remember to steer clear of culturally significant and cultural sensitive costumes, costumes that encourage violence, and sexually suggestive costumes. Every year we see instances where people dress up for Halloween in ways that are offensive or culturally insensitive. We often wonder how did this even happen? If you’re not sure if your child’s costume is appropriate, look online, ask a friend, or ask your child’s teacher. Just make sure that the lines of communication are open between you and your child so that what they’re wearing is appropriate on all accounts, guaranteeing that not only your child, but everyone around them will enjoy the day!