Holidays can stir up different emotions for foster children and Halloween can be particularly triggering due to the season being about frights and spookiness. We want to encourage all our foster families and help you celebrate during this time of year in whatever way feels best for you.
The holiday can look differently depending on a lot of factors. Your geographical location, family cultural background and size, religious beliefs, and ages can all play a role in how you spend Halloween and the month of October in general.
Our goal is to equip you with options to navigate and enjoy this season as a foster family. This year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, LA County is discouraging trick-or-treating. To stay safe this holiday, stay in and enjoy a sweet treat and fun memories can be made.
1) Be Intentional
Instead of looking at this holiday as a potential mess with loads of possible triggers for your foster child, we suggest looking for the opportunities to bond with and show love towards them. Every holiday season comes with traditions and expectations. Everyone gets to decide what Halloween looks like for them.
This holiday in particular has a lot of variation and options for celebrating. So think about what makes sense for your family and your foster child. We may not know what this holiday has looked like for them in the past and this could be a great time to heal over past trauma while creating unique memories in your home.
2) Follow Their Lead
Speaking of not knowing what Halloween means to a child new to your home - ask them what they want to do. It is easy for a child, especially those who have experienced past trauma to go into survival mode by either appeasing others to not disrupt the flow or to do what everyone else is doing because they feel pressured to do so.
So check in with them to see what they want to do and then be on the lookout for nonverbal cues that they could be experiencing anxiety or discomfort, even if their words are saying otherwise.
3) More than Trick or Treating
There is more than one way to celebrate Halloween! Since we aren't dressing up and going out this year, here are alternative ways you can still celebrate.
- Visit a pumpkin patch...preferably when it's not super crowded.
- Decorate pumpkins at home, at the kitchen table. If carving isn't a good option (which is the case for LOTS of kiddos), decorate with markers or paint.
- Stay at home (with front lights turned off so your child doesn’t get triggered) and have a family movie night. Steer clear of the scary movies, but there are fun family-friendly Halloween movies. A favorite of ours is It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
- Sometimes churches will host Trunk or Treat, in the daylight. These tend to be a little calmer, and a lot less scary.
- Make some fun food and have your own Halloween celebration. The kids can help make the food. Build your own Jack-O-Lantern pizzas, calzone snakes, etc... Don't forget dessert!
- Dress up at home. Stay clear of the scary costumes.
- Your kids deserve to still have the fun that comes with Halloween. Although they may act or say they want to do all the other stuff, they probably will be relieved.
There are a lot of awesome things that happen when a foster child is placed in a loving home and one of those is a change in their perspective and psychology. For some children, particularly those who have had a hard time around Halloween due to past traumas, this is a chance to practice courage in a safe space and build new neural pathways.
When you prepare your foster child on what to expect on Halloween night and communicate and affirm their emotions, you are helping them turn off the survival instinct in their brain and giving them the freedom to choose what feels safe for them.
We hope you have a fun Halloween season! Stay safe and appropriately spooky. If you or someone you know are thinking about "facing fears" about becoming a foster parent, click the link below.