Halloween – a holiday traditionally filled with large gatherings, unsanitary fingers unwrapping, and candy. Halloween 2020 is approaching and families are trying to figure out how to honor the kid-focused, fun-filled traditions at a time when the world feels so different than it did in October 2019.

Here’s the key: Set expectations. Prepare for what’s ahead, including the feelings your kid might have. Allow your child to protest and feel however he feels about the holiday or any COVID-related changes in plans.

And… embrace the fun. Allow yourself to do something sillier for Halloween than you’ve done before – we could use it and our kids could use it to see us in an engaged, playful, joyous mood.  We can find joy amidst the dark times.  It’s allowed and doesn’t invalidate the seriousness of this time.  Both things can be true.

Below are some Halloween suggestions and scripts – I walk through how to talk to your kids about your plans, how to own your decisions and allow your child to own his feelings, how to support kids who are scared of costumes and dress-up, and how to prepare yourself for the inevitable meltdowns to come. And if your family doesn’t celebrate Halloween in any – that’s allowed as well. There may still be some general points around changes in plans and holidays that might be useful.

1. Some kids find costumes scary. Validate this fear: “There’s something about costumes that doesn’t feel good to you. I believe you. I’m here with you. I’ll keep you safe.” Some kids like to skip the holiday all together. Allow this. It doesn’t mean your child won’t ever be able to confront scary things.

2. Kids do better when they know what to expect. Share the Halloween plan: “Let’s talk about what we will be doing, step by step.” In addition to sharing your plan, talk in advance about scary decorations, costumes, and being out at night.

3. Discuss how the celebration ending will feel. When we know what feelings to expect, we can cope better. Share: “The end of Halloween always feels hard right? That used to be hard for me too. How do you think it’ll be when I say it’s time to go home? What might help that moment feel a bit easier?”

4. Come up with your Candy Plan in advance. Some families tell how many candies a child can have and some families allow their children to make all candy decisions that night. Key is to communicate this choice clearly and directly to your child so it’s not an unexpected decision.

5. If you’ve decided to forgo trick-or-treating, remember: The parent is in charge of the decision, the child is in charge of his feelings. Share, “Halloween will be different this year – we won’t be doing trick-or-treating like we have in the past. I know that’s a huge bummer and you’re allowed to be upset about it.”

6. If your child protests “NOT FAIR!,” empathize with the feeling under the comparison. “Yes. Amare and Bennett’s parents are allowing trick-or-treating this year. You’re right, that is unfair and I get why you feel mad at me about it. I’m not going to try convince you out of that feeling.”

7. Expect some disorder. Halloween can be exciting and overstimulating for kids. Tell yourself, “There will be some big meltdown today. Let me prepare my body now by taking a deep breath, imagining it, reminding myself that this is normal and that I can cope with it when it comes.”

8. Embrace the fun. 2020 has been full of dark times. Allow yourself to embrace some aspect of Halloween – every family likely needs an infusion of playfulness, so wear a costume or eat some candy or make a scavenger hunt. Allow Halloween to be a whole family event rather than it just being a kids’ celebration.