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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Attachment Parenting and Halloween -- Guest Post

Halloween is coming, and sure to come along for the ride are the likes of tantrums over costumes, sugar buzzes and upset tummies, fear over scary decorations or stranger's houses, and general chaos. For parents of the "crunchy" or "Attachment Parenting" persuasions, Halloween can lead to some additional considerations as we gently try to help our children navigate the holiday without losing our ever-loving, granola-eating, co-sleeping minds.

With Attachment Parenting International's 8 Principles in mind, here are some tips, tricks, and treats for an AP-Friendly Halloween Experience!

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Okay, so obviously you've already gestated and birthed your little goblin, but we can capture the spirit of this principle by preparing appropriately for the Halloween festivities. Talk to your children about the plans for trick-or-treating, try on costumes ahead of time, and give consideration to the weather in your area. For example, we live in Wisconsin, so any costume that can't fit over a full snow-suit is just poor planning. Find out the hours for trick-or-treating in your area, and walk the route you plan to take before Halloween. Have flashlights for when it gets dark, tissues for when little noses start to run, and bags or buckets to collect the candy in. Generally speaking, plan ahead and involve your children in your preparations so everyone is on the same page.

Feed with Love and Respect

There is no one way that "Attached" parents feed their children, so this will look different for different families. If you try to eat mostly organic, you're likely to be disappointed in the piles of candy that come home with you. If you're vegetarian, you'll be on the look out for candy containing gelatin. If you've got a child with a peanut allergy, the supply of Snickers won't just be a let-down, it will be danger. Consider ahead of time how to approach your family's food considerations. Decide how many pieces per day you'll allow. Plan for a "candy exchange" wherein your child trades in their candy for healthier or safer treats you've pre-purchased. Set an example for your neighborhood by offering healthy/organic/vegetarian/allergen-free/insert food descriptor of choice treats. Ensure that breast fed infants are regularly offered a chance to nurse and pay attention to hunger cues that can get missed in the excitement.

Respond with Sensitivity

There is a good chance that before Halloween is through, something is going to scare or upset your child. Affirm their fears and feelings, and be there to comfort them with a soothing voice and empathetic words. Pay attention to your children, watching for cues that they may be becoming over-stimulated, and take a break if needed. Watch the path ahead for scary or startling objects or costumes, and either point them out to your child before you approach or avoid them if possible. Oh, and don't do that super mean thing where you pretend you ate all your child's candy and video tape their reaction. Just don't.

Use Nurturing Touch 

Your touch will help your child feel safe and secure through Halloween festivities. Hold hands or carry your child while trick-or-treating or at events. Place a reassuring hand on their shoulder while they ring the neighbor's doorbell. For the ultimate in nurturing touch, go for a  babywearing costume!

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

This is probably a no-brainer, but limit candy consumption close to bed time to avoid hyperactivity and upset stomachs. Allow adequate time between trick-or-treating or parties and bed time to allow your child to wind down. A quiet, relaxing activity like completing a puzzle as a family can be a nice transition from the excitement of Halloween to the solace of sleep. Allow your child time to process any feelings of fright or insecurity while you prepare for bed time.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

As much as possible, keep your routine consistent and predictable. Doing so can help  minimize tantrums triggered by unexpected disruptions or unexpected situations. Be physically present and emotionally responsive, and answer your child's questions about your Halloween activities in a loving and respectful manner.

Practice Positive Discipline

When the inevitable happens and misbehavior occurs, respond with gentle, positive discipline. Try to determine the needs leading to the behavior (Is your child hungry? Tired? Confused? Frightened?) and respond to those needs, rather than reacting to the behavior. If possible, involve your child in determining an appropriate solution to their perceived problem.

Strive for Balance in your Personal and Family Life

Congratulations! You've given your children a fun-filled and happy Halloween! Don't neglect your own needs and self-care in your quest to maintain your parenting philosophy through the challenges of Halloween. Achieve balance by hiring a sitter for some adults-only Halloween Fun, or raid their candy stash while they're in bed! (For some reason, every Butterfinger in the bag looks suspicious!)

Happy Halloween!


A full-time wife and mother and a part-time substance abuse counselor. In her spare time (ha!) she blogs at Fine and Fair, a blog written to and for her children about the ups and downs along the journey of raising them as responsible citizens of the world with the values of compassion toward all living things, environmental responsibility, conservation, and celebrating diversity in all of its forms. Joella is passionate about the principles of attachment parenting, breastfeeding, feminism, and vegetarianism. She enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking and baking, crafting, making music, and aims to discover joy and beauty in each new day.

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