Parents give kids precautions for Halloween. “Don’t eat unwrapped candy. Stay with your group. Be aware of your surroundings.” Do kids with Attention Deficit Disorder need another set of precautions layered over the ones that most children receive? What special precautions should kids with ADD/ADHD hear from their parents on Halloween? How can you help your child have a happy and healthy Halloween?
Kids with ADD have several traits that could interfere with staying safe over Halloween. Their brains function differently from most children. This is not something that they do to make their lives and the lives of others around them difficult. It is a biologically based disorder. They lack impulse control. Some will follow directions which are given by other kids to pull pranks. Children with ADD often have difficulty making friends. When another child who is a little trickster, offers friendship, a child with ADD might do a negative act to help cement that friendship. They feel like they need to do a friend a favor. Children with ADD also make careless mistakes on a daily basis. Impulsive acts on dark streets can put your child at risk for an accident. Taken together, these qualities can add up to danger on Halloween night.
Where should a parent start to keep their kid safe? Give them the warnings that all kids get. Then, about one month ahead of time, help your child plan their costume. It should reflect their personality without obviously standing out from the crowd. This means that costumes should not be gory. Kids should not carry prop weapons. Costumes should be family friendly without plunging necklines, dog collars, or fishnet stockings. Attention to this detail can help your child be less likely to be teased or bullied.
There are a variety of things that your child can do in this spooky night. If your child is older, and insists on going to the popular haunted houses, make sure they know the etiquette associated with each house. Some houses want you to just walk through. Others expect you to participate in the experience. Go online and let the child know exactly what to expect. If the child is in a group, make sure that you know the group members. Be certain that they will not try to make your child do something bizarre in the haunted house. Make sure that your child will not be stranded in a stressful situation.
Kids should trick or treat in a group that is supervised. Parents, know who your kid is with! Peer pressure is a major force of life for the teens and tweens. It is easy for the child with poor executive function to succumb to peer pressure and pull a prank that he otherwise would never think of doing. At a time determined by the parents, a kid should be home early enough to calm down and get ready for bed.
Part of calming down is getting the candy together when the child gets home. Go through the candy. Your child should look at it, and then you look. Discard any that is obviously old, or able to be easily tampered with. Divide the candy up. Have the kid set up the zipper bags to store at home. Each bag should contain no more candy than you would want your kid to eat in one day. Be sure that your child knows in advance how the candy will be treated. Kids with ADD do not like surprises.
All of this glorious fun will upset your child’s daily routine. For them to have the best experience, you need to impose some order in this child’s life. Before your child goes out for the big Halloween adventure, make sure that any homework is completed. If they have something to gather up for a school project, that should be done. Lunch should be made, and the clothes for the next day set out. Serve a healthy dinner. After sorting candy, try to get the child into bed early enough so that they get some high quality sleep. However, it is Halloween, so you can expect them to be a bit slow the next morning.
Make your child a special breakfast with a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats. This would not be a breakfast with 20 special pieces of candy! For a child with Attention Deficit Disorder, getting off to a positive start in the morning can be the difference between being in trouble all day and having a great day before they come home to tap into the Halloween candy.
Your child with ADD will have his routine upset at Halloween. That is a foregone conclusion. However, by using these guidelines, and adding them to tried-and- true structures that you already have in place, your child can have a happy, healthy, and safe Halloween.