If you’ve been to your neighborhood big box store lately, you know it’s coming.
Aisles of candy. Aisles of costumes…from the cute ones to the scary, gory ones. Aisles of decorations. Halloween is just around the corner.
As parents of adopted and foster kiddos, you know holidays are times you need to be intentional. Halloween is one where you REALLY need to be intentional. Adopted and Foster Kiddos have been impacted by trauma…and the bottom line is TRAUMA and Halloween do not go well together.
First, we have to come to the understanding that Adopted and Foster Kiddos have been impacted by trauma. And children who’ve been impacted by trauma don’t manage anxiety well. They don’t manage transitions well. They don’t manage sensory stimuli very well.
Throw in Halloween and all the things that go along with that and you throw TRIGGERS into the mix. Frightening triggers.
Traditional Halloween Celebrations
Let’s take a look at a typical Halloween for lots of families.
Trick or treating. Going from house to house, ringing doorbells of neighbors and strangers, on the mission to get a bag full of candy. Or if you’re like me as a kid…a pillow case full!
Now as fun as that may have been for you as a child, or for your kiddos not impacted by trauma, that is NOT the case for kiddos who have been impacted by trauma.
The key, as usual, is meeting your adopted or foster child right where he or she is at!
Now, let’s take a look at a typical Halloween with that lens.
Kids out in the dark, on the streets, eating sugar, in this big world with all this sensory stuff going on…spooky decorations, scary costumes, constant movement from house to house.
Those things can TRIGGER your child and send him or her child right back to survival. And even worse…gets in the way of new brain wiring.
Even being at home, passing out candy to all the ghosts and goblins and princesses coming to your door can trigger a child who’s been impacted by trauma.
What may seem obvious that is just pretend, is not always seen that way by a child who has been impacted by trauma.
They often are unable to separate pretend from reality. And when those things are scary, they will go right to operating out of survival. Believing and feeling those things as very real.
And...just like that, the child is triggered. The child is using old brain wiring, using their survivor brain. That is what you've been working so hard to change, right?
The first couple of years after we adopted our daughters, we carried on that same tradition of trick or treating as I had done as a child and as we had done with our biological kids.
On the surface, my girls looked like they were having fun. But the truth was…they were being triggered. They were operating out of survival…something that we had been work hard to keep them out of.
We eventually realized we needed to do it differently. But we had the juggling balance of having bio kids who had experienced those traditional Halloween traditions and still wanted to do them, girls who claimed they wanted to do those activities, combined with our new knowledge of how it was impacting our girls.
We needed to be BOLD and BRAVE in our parenting decision. Once again, we needed to do it differently. Differently than we had been, differently than our friends and family.
Parents can really be pulled, but if you can see it as impacting your child…triggering them and sending them to survival, it just isn’t worth it..
A New Way of Celebrating Halloween
You are called to be brave in these situations. Setting aside how you thought it would look, setting aside how everyone else is doing it, and parent by truly meeting your child right where he’s at.
That doesn't mean you have to skip the fun altogether. It means you may need to find a way that works for your adopted or foster child too.
Think outside the box. Think of ideas with the mindset of helping your child.
7 Ways to Celebrate Halloween Without All The Fall Out