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Build Your Child’s Social Skills This Halloween

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Halloween is right around the corner and pretty soon, your child will be out in her best superhero or princess costume, knocking on doors and getting lots of tasty treats. This festive occasion is not all about dressing up, trick or treating or the sugar rushes that will follow, however. The spookiest night of the season can be a good time to build your child’s social graces, as she will be able to practice her skills through several interactions with others. Stellar social skills are just as important on this holiday as they are on any other day, but Halloween can be the perfect opportunity to teach your child about being gracious and about the rewards (candy!) that come from being respectful.

Learn more about how you can enhance your child's social and emotional skills.

There are many ways that you can make sure that this Halloween is full of treats and no tricks this year. Here are some helpful tips for you and your little ghosts and goblins:

  • Choose a trick-or-treat bag with your child, and let her know that she will need to be prepared and ready to accept treats quickly and graciously. The bag should be easy to carry and open and close and it should be strong enough to hold a few pounds of treats. After you get the right bag, show her how to say trick or treat politely and then quickly open her bag, so as to not hold up the rest of the trick-or-treaters. Trick-or-treating can also be a good lesson in waiting and patience. Patience may not be a virtue that your child grasps fully yet, so make sure to remind her about the need to wait while the other children before her get their treats instead of storming to the front of the line.
  • Talk to your child about being polite to others and minding his manners while trick-or-treating. While some children are naturals at interacting with others, some may still need guidance, and this may be a great time to remind your child about the importance of good manners. The combination of lots of sugar and funny costumes to hide behind can also affect his behavior, but there are ways to avoid this recipe for disaster. Express to him that although he may be dressed like Shrek, he’s still a real kid inside, not an ogre! Remind him that he should have fun, but should still exhibit good social skills, and be kind and courteous to others.

  • Practice trick-or-treating with your child. Have your child ring your doorbell in costume and go through the whole trick-or-treat process. Encourage her to make eye contact with those handing out candy and with friends or neighbors she may run into on Halloween night. Express that it is important to always say, “thank you,” regardless of whether or not she likes the treat. Explain that even if she doesn’t like what she has received, she should be grateful that the person gave her a treat at all. You can separate the “good” from the “bad” candy later at home.

  • Map out a trick-or-treat route and discuss Halloween safety with your child. If you are not accompanying your child, remind him to stay in a group and stick to the approved route so you know he is in a safe area. You may also want to provide him with a flashlight with fresh batteries and remind him to call 911 if he gets lost or needs help. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that you make sure that your child’s costume is bright and reflective, flame resistant, and that any mask that he wears doesn’t limit his eyesight.

  • Ask your child to be respectful of others. If a house has no lights on, it’s probably not a good idea to ring that doorbell. The family probably ran out of candy, isn’t home, or simply might not be participating in the festivities. Remind your child that it is always important to be respectful of others, even on Halloween.

  • Halloween night can also offer a lesson in kindness. If your child is going out trick-or-treating, be sure your household is also participating in handing out treats. Spread kindness (and treats) this Halloween, and most of all, enjoy!

If you follow these helpful tips, your child’s good behavior may just end up being the best treat that you receive this year. Happy Halloween!

Faye de Muyshondt is the founder and author socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS. She is on the expert panel of the Social & Emotional Development section that was recently launched on the Parent Toolkit.

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