I’ve heard so many grievances about kids and Halloween for years now and honestly I just don’t understand the big deal. If they’re a kid and they are trick or treating, just give them something yummy, a smile, and move on with your life. Same goes with teenagers because come on guys, they could be out making some terrible life choices, but instead they are holding onto their childhood a bit longer and participating in something innocent. Don’t complain.
But my major issue surrounding adults and Halloween is that everyone tends to forget about the special needs kids. Halloween can be hard for them. The scary decorations, the bright jack o’ lanterns, greetings from strangers and the excitement of all the other kids running around. Even just at home it can be stressful.
I remember a few years ago, my husband and I didn’t feel like our son was ready to go trick or treating and he agreed. We still bought candy, gave him some, and dutifully answered the door when kids came knocking. But it was too much. After a while our son was visibly agitated and started melting down every time someone knocked on the door. He was looking outside and seeing all the scary costumes and with each knock he was getting more and more overwhelmed. So I wrote a note, telling kids to take a piece of candy and have a Happy Halloween, and I left it outside with the bowl of goodies. No more knocks, no more anxiety. (Believe me I was having just as hard of a time as he was. Anxiety disorder + people knocking on your door nonstop = bad news.)
The next year, he still didn’t seem ready, so I was prepared. I printed out a cute little poem about how our little pumpkin was autistic and got scared of the loud noises of Halloween. I asked for no one to ring our doorbell, and for them to enjoy some candy, and again have a Happy Halloween. And this time, it was better. No one knocked. No one rang the bell, and when people say the sign, they quieted down a bit. And this time, my son looked out the window and watched the trick or treaters walking down the street with curiosity mixed in with the anxiety.
Last year, when he was 6 years old, was our first year trick or treating. We put out our bowl of candy and set off on our own adventure and honestly it went well. We got a few people asking what my son was dressed up as (he wasn’t because he didn’t feel comfortable in a costume), which he got upset about, but our daughter, 4 at the time, was quick to step in and distract people with her sweet charm and adorable Sheriff Callie costume. So all in all, it was a good night. My buddy was polite, and most of the time said thank you without being reminded. He ran to each door with excitement and didn’t complain about what he got. I was so damn proud.
But I know in a different area it could have gone different. I’ve heard stories of adults demanding to know why the child wasn’t wearing a costume, or getting angry when the kid wouldn’t say the right words, or wouldn’t talk at all. Kids literally being bullied by adults for not behaving the way they’d expect a “normal” kid to behave. And that is unacceptable.
These kids might not be comfortable saying trick or treat. They might not be in costume. Costumes are itchy and different and different is hard. They might not be able to look you in the eye. They might forget or be too scared or shy to say thank you. They may get upset that the candy you give them is something they don’t like. But guys… This is not their fault. It’s not about you in any way and it’s not personal. They’re just kids, trying to enjoy an innocent tradition, just like other kids their age.
So remember, the kid who won’t look you in the eye, or say trick or treat; the kid not in costume, or the one having a meltdown instead of going door to door, they’re all so special and they are trying so hard. And they deserve a good time just like everyone else. So give them an extra smile, don’t put any pressure, and if they aren’t in costume, don’t mention it. Just wish them a Happy Halloween. It might not seem like much to you, but I guarantee you, their parents will notice and it will mean the world to them.