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Tips for a safe and sane Halloween

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  October 30, 2013 11:24 AM

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Thumbnail image for halloween.jpgAround our house, the excitement about Halloween is almost palpable. 

The costumes are ready, the contribution to the class party has been sent in, plans are being made for Trick-or-Treating...we're all set, as I imagine most families are. But as you make those final plans, there are a few things to keep in mind to be sure that everyone stays safe this Halloween--and you stay sane.

First, safe (which is ultimately more important than sane).

Costumes. These may seem obvious, but given what I see every year when I go out with the kids, sometimes restating the obvious is a good idea:
  • Kids need to be seen. Twice as many kids get hit by cars on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Use reflector bands, carry glow sticks, do whatever it takes so that your kid is really visible.
  • Kids need to see. Masks are great, but not if you can't see where you are going.
  • Kids need to be able to walk comfortably, without falling down. Which is hard if you can't move easily in your costume, or if you trip on it.
  • Accessories should be sensible. Swords or wands that poke other kids are not always sensible. And since you are likely to end up carrying stuff that needs to be carried, you might want to rethink those extras.
  • Factor in the weather. The cute little dress is fine, unless it's chilly out. There have been years my children refused to wear outerwear because it "ruined" the costume...if it's not too late, pick something that actually works outside.
Trick-or-treating. There are a few things to make sure you've thought about...
  • Be sure you are seen! Carry a flashlight and/or glow sticks, don't cross the street between parked cars, and if there's no sidewalk, walk close to the side of the road facing traffic.
  • Pick well-lit streets, and only go to well-lit houses.
  • Supervise your kids! Pay close attention to where they are walking and what they are doing.
  • By middle school, many kids will be ready to go out without you. If you decide that your child is ready, be sure that a.they are in a group; b.you know and approve the route; c. you can reach them at all times and vice versa.
  • Give them a healthy dinner ahead of time, so that you don't have gorging on candy while you are out (you may still have gorging, but hopefully it will be less)
  • Be alert--kids, cars and people do unexpected things on Halloween. Don't drink and trick-or-treat.
  • Try not to drive on Halloween. If you have to, be really, really careful and drive slowly, because some family who hasn't read this might dart out between parked cars...
  • If your child has any food allergies, bring your Epipen. You never know what might happen or what your child might eat when you aren't watching.
As for staying sane...
  • Set some guidelines ahead of time as to how far you will go and how long you will be out. Saves you arguing later.
  • Don't let your kids carry huge bags for candy (like pillowcases). Keep it small...you'll end up with fewer arguments over candy, and fewer arguments about going to more houses to fill it up.
  • Chat with people at houses as you go along, rather than just grabbing candy and running to the next house. It makes it more pleasant, sends a better message to your kids, and can be a nice way to meet people.
  • Make a big deal out of handing out candy, and have some other fun activities at home too--moving some of the emphasis off trick-or-treating is a good thing.
  • When you get home, after candy inspection and sorting (and trading), store the candy out of reach. Come up with a plan for disbursement. Again: planning ahead avoids arguments. You may be able to ease it out of the house after a while...some dentists will take it, or you can do something like my friend Wendy Sue Swanson and have the Switch Witch take it.
  • Have fun yourself. Maybe wear a costume yourself. Do some decorating. Use it as an excuse to act like a kid. We don't get all that many of those.
I've got dibs on the candy corn. And the Reese's pieces.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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