New Celebrations, Same Skills

As we all know, Halloween will be a bit different this year. However, the same social tools for success still apply! In this article, we discuss the important social skills needed for a successful family and community experience. We’ll talk about providing a sense of normalcy by safely acknowledging and celebrating this popular holiday.  Halloween 2020 will provide natural opportunities to practice social skills like flexible-thinking, managing big feelings, and Social Coaching. Check out these tips and tools for a successful Halloween celebration.

Enjoying Face-to-Face Trick or Treating?

“Pre-teach” Social Expectations for a Successful Evening

Pre-teaching, or reviewing what will happen, helps your child know what to expect.  Pre-teaching is an incredibly helpful social tool for kids of all ages. For example, use the following topics as a way to clarify social expectations with your child:

  • Matching: Stay together with the trick-or-treaters in your group. Walk together with others to the next house.
  • Wait your turn for candy to be given to you (versus taking over and pushing to be first). If you are taking candy from a bowl, take one piece to leave candy for other trick or treaters.
  • Respect personal space bubbles to honor social distancing.
  • Say “thank you” when candy is given out to you.
  • Ensure safety by looking both ways before crossing a street. Stay within eyesight from your family. Make sure you can see under a costume mask.
  • Create a social story about trick or treating with social distancing. If your child is fearful, remind them that they may see some scary decorations and costumes and that they are pretend.
  • Discuss limits for candy consumption ahead of time to prevent meltdowns and teach good moderation habits.. For instance, how much can be eaten during trick-or-treating? How about after? What happens to the candy after Halloween? One candy per day? Where is it kept? As a family are you donating some candy? Are there rules about bringing candy to school for snack or lunch?

Other Social-Emotional Expectations to Consider

  • Talk about the social rules for your celebration. Are you teaming with families in your social bubble? Or, will your family celebrate on their own? Will your child wear a mask? If social distancing, will you stay within your family bubble or mingle, staying socially distant?
  • Be flexible. Support your child when they are ready to go home. It is OKAY modify plans if your child is tired. Avoid pushing-on despite cues from your child that they have had enough (e.g. cranky, lagging, very quiet, overly silly, not able to wait their turn for candy). After all, It’s better to have a shorter, but more successful experience.
  • Celebrating can lead to big feelings. What calming tools can help your child regulate their emotions? Decide in advance on a “stay calm plan” your child can use as needed. Discuss inconspicuous calming tools can used in the situation, such as deep breathing, visualizing a happy place, and counting to ten.

Celebrating Together from Afar?

Try these Virtual Social Activities

  • Host a virtual costume party! Vote and award winners for “Most Creative Costume”, “Most Spooky” or “Most Silly.”
  • Arrange a time to video chat while carving and decorating pumpkins with friends or family, or while decorating Halloween-themed cookies or cupcakes.
  • Play Halloween related games online.
  • Older kids can host a “watch party” with Halloween themed movies. Virtual backgrounds can be created on Zoom to enhance the party atmosphere.

Getting Together for a Small, Outdoor Gathering?

Fun Ideas for Socially Distant Celebrations

  • Socially-distant pumpkin decorating! Space out tables and supplies at least 6 feet apart ahead of time so everyone feels comfortable.
  • Play corn hole or project a movie outside for a “walk up” movie night.

For more resources on social-emotional skill building, check out Social Bridges on Instagram and Facebook