How to have a mindful Halloween with your kids
We love Halloween in our house. It’s just such a fun season isn’t it? Dressing up, playing make believe, eating yummy treats, parties with friends, and embracing all things spooky! What’s not to love?!
But with so much going on, it can also be a time of excess and overwhelm, especially for kids! But of course, it doesn’t have to be. So here are a few tips to help you have a more calm, mindful, Halloween that everyone can enjoy!
5 tips for a more mindful Halloween
1. Be mindful of your child’s feelings
Some children, particularly young or sensitive kids, may find some parts of Halloween a little bit scary. It can be easy to dismiss these concerns on a night like Halloween. Especially when everyone else seems to be having so much fun!
Resist the urge to tell your child that it’s “Just a bit of fun”, or that “No one else is scared”. Sure, you know they are perfectly safe, but the fear they feel is very real, so be mindful of that. Instead, let them know you understand how they feel and that you are there to support them.
2. Be on the lookout for signs of overwhelm
Even children who look like they are having lots of fun, can quickly escalate into a state of complete overwhelm if we are not being vigilant. There is so much happening at Halloween – lot of people, and noise, things to look at and taste – it’s very easy for an immature nervous system (or even a mature one) to become stressed.
Keep an eye on your child. Know their early warning signs. And be aware that an overwhelmed nervous system doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. Your super excited little goblin can slip into meltdown mode just as quickly as your tired, grumpy vampire.
3. Have a plan
Be sure your child has a clear idea of what to expect at Halloween. If you’re going trick or treating, or to another social event, talk to your child about what to expect before you arrive. And discuss your expectations of them and their behaviour, too.
But most of all, follow their lead. Let them know that they can tell you at any time if they become scared, need a break, or want to leave. Have a clear plan about what you (and your child) can do if they do feel overwhelmed or afraid. And perhaps have a contingency plan in place for if it all goes pear shaped. Who knows, chilling at home with some popcorn and a (non scary) Halloween movie may turn out to be way more fun anyway!
4. Teach them some mindfulness skills
Be sure your child has come coping skills up their sleeve so they know what to do if they start to feel distressed. If they don’t know any, then now is a perfect time to teach them some!
I love to use special occasions to help kids learn new skills. They are already interested and feeling motivated, which means they’re much more likely to to take new information on board.
Try these fun activities with your kids this Halloween. They are a simple but effective introduction to mindfulness and a great way to help them learn to regulate their emotions and calm stressed bodies and minds.
1. Buddy Breathing:
For this activity you’ll need a small pumpkin. Have your child lie down on their back in a comfortable position and place the pumpkin on their belly. Now ask them to take a deep breath, in through their nose so their belly fills with air and the pumpkin rises. Then they slowly exhale through their mouth and watch the pumpkin lower again. They should focus on the pumpkin moving up and down and try to make it move as slowly as possible. Once they have the hang of the basic breathing technique, they can do it anywhere, anytime (sans pumpkin!).
2. Halloween Yoga:
Yoga is a great way to practice mindfulness and very effective at calming the body and mind. Wth a bit of creativity and imagination, some standard yoga moves become super fun Halloween yoga moves. Try these substitutions:
- Child’s pose = Pumpkin pose
- Cat pose = Black Cat pose
- Table pose = Spider Pose
- Corpse Pose = Um…ok. Sill Corpse Pose.
You get the idea. For more fun Halloween Yoga poses, see my Halloween Mindfulness pack here.
3. Spooky Calm Down Jar:
Find an empty plastic bottle or glass jar. Fill it most of the way to the top with water, and then add a few spoonfuls of glitter glue and some Halloween craft items like Halloween confetti or googly eyes. Pop some hot glue inside the lid and screw it on tight to prevent leakage. When your child is feeling upset, they can shake the Calm Down Jar and then focus on the swirling glitter until it settles at the bottom.
5. Let them eat their loot!
So you’ve been trick or treating and your child has come home with a huge bag of lollies. What now? It’s tempting to put limits on our kids right away, isn’t it? To do things like throw away the lollies, tell them they can’t eat them yet, or let them know you’ll get rid of the leftovers in the morning.
Because of course, we care about our children’s health. We’d much prefer our kids to eat more nutritionally dense food, and to not be sick. Unfortunately for us though, these tactics often backfire. When we try to limit sugary foods in these ways (especialy on special days like Halloween!) we inadvertently make our kids more likely to binge on them. We make them forbidden, and therefore much more enticing!
We also send our kids the message that we don’t trust them to regulate themselves and their appetite, which sends the message that they shouldn’t trust themselves either. So let them eat their Halloween goodies. At least for the next day or so. Trust that they will stop when they’ve had enough. Give them a chance to learn about their limits and how to listen to the cues their bodies are giving them.
Yes, they might overeat. They might even be sick. But the best way to learn about our limits is to test them. Children cannot learn to self regulate if we don’t allow them the opportunity to do so.
If you need some more ideas on how to have a mindful Halloween and teach your kids some fun mindfulness activities, you can find some more in my Halloween Mindfulness Activity pack. But you only have a few more days until the pack is gone for another year, so be quick to avoid disappointment!
Sarah is a psychologist, mama of 4 and the creator of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems and has a special interest in anxiety disorders in children. In her spare time she enjoys hugging her kids, drinking coffee, and telling anyone who’ll listen how tired she is.