7 Common Halloween Snafus, Solved

Costume woes and friend drama don't have to ruin your family's Halloween. We have scary-easy advice for your trickiest situations.

By Janene Mascarella



Tricky Situation: The must-have costume is sold out.

How to Treat It: Find an image of the character in a book or online and ask your child what she likes about it: the tutu, the cape, the color? “Take your child to pick out accessories to create the costume of her dreams,” says Kate Horvat of Halloweencostumes.com. “Tights, wigs, capes, makeup, and masks can all be used to evoke your child’s original idea.”

Tricky Situation: Your sis-in-law steals — gasp! — your costume idea for your baby.

How to Treat It: We know it’s a petty offense, but in spite of ourselves, most of us would be annoyed, acknowledges Dana Dorfman, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and family counselor in New York City. But, she says, the way to channel your feelings is to take it as flattery. See the crime as an attempt to connect with you. You can creatively solve this problem by switching your baby to a get-up that’s half of a two-part look. If you can’t take that high a road, just know that your child is so uniquely beautiful that she can’t possibly look the same as your niece. “The child makes the costume,” explains Dr. Dorfman. And think ahead to the teen years: If your daughter is weepy because a friend wore the same outfit to a party, what will you tell her? Probably something like “Hold your head high, knowing you carried the look in your own fabulous way.” Take your own advice now.

Tricky Situation: The kids plead to make your bulldog the Bride to their Frankenstein and Igor.

How to Treat It: “A well-socialized dog may do just fine, but one who’s easily rattled by the unfamiliar probably won’t,” says Lisa Woody, owner of Funstufffordogs.com. If your dog is easily spooked, leave him home. If nobody can stay with him, set up toys and treats, low lights, and soothing music to help him cope. Or dress up the kids and dog and take a pre-Halloween shot, says Woody. “You get the memories without stressing your pet.”

Tricky Situation: The costume your 8-year-old daughter circled in the catalog seems a bit risqué.

How to Treat It: Realize that everywhere your child looks, tween models are dressed as young women. “This age-blurring makes it hard for girls to see the difference between cool and sexy,” says Stephen Hinshaw, co-author of The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls From Today’s Pressures and chairman of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. Don’t read too much into the choice, Hinshaw continues. “Parents fall into the trap of thinking that their girl will want to dress that way all the time,” he explains. “She won’t.” If it’s a costume you’re on the fence about, you may want to consider letting it go, he says. After all, Halloween is a day that’s about leaving everyday reality behind. If you can’t, then consider allowing her to wear it with modifications . . . dark or patterned tights under a mini skirt, a tanktop under a belly-revealing cropped shirt.

Tricky Situation: It’s pouring rain all Halloween afternoon; your alligator is crying crocodile tears.

How to Treat It: Make the most of a soggy situation by throwing on cute rain boots and jackets, grabbing a colorful umbrella, and capturing some fun shots outside, advises Ingrid Kellaghan, parenting expert and founder of Cambridge Nanny Group in Chicago. Then call a few neighbors and throw an impromptu party. “Order pizza and set up trick-or-treating stations, a scavenger hunt, or a candy bar. Top off the festivities with a costume fashion show complete with music,” adds Kellaghan. Or call your local mall. Stores often dole out candy on Halloween, and there may be a costume contest. “This teaches kids to go with the flow,” adds Kellaghan.

Tricky Situation: Your kid and two new pals go trick-or-treating. But before long, your kid is left in the dust.

How to Treat It: Try to keep it in perspective. Everyone’s excited and revved up on sugar; it’s possible it wasn’t intentional. Regardless of the reason, though, turn the snub into a lesson, says Deborah Serani, Ph.D., author of Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers. She suggests just moving on by saying something like “Let’s set off on our own adventure!” If you’re the only adult chaperoning and can’t take off, hang back with your child for a hug, and whisper something funny, like “He sure woke up on the wrong side of the cage this morning!” This shows your child how to create a safe mental space away from others, says Serani. Or use facial expressions to communicate — a drawn-out eye roll or shared side-to-side glances. “These nonverbal expressions are powerful healing techniques,” says Serani.

Tricky Situation: You carved the perfect pumpkin. How do you keep old Jack looking his best?

How to Treat It: Look around for those little silica gel packets found in shoe boxes, says Susan Matthews, a Philadelphia-based lifestyle expert. Sprinkle the beads inside the pumpkin to absorb moisture and banish mold. Can’t find any? You can always buy pumpkin preservative (yes, it exists) at a Halloween specialty store or online. To ward off mischievous night-smashing, keep your pumpkins near your front door or under an outdoor light, suggests Matthews. Motion detectors rigged with spooky sounds are another way to deter vandals and hungry critters. And although pumpkins start showing up in stores in September, don’t even think about carving one until the week before the big day.

Photo credit: Sean Justice

Social Skills
Raising Kids
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Age 7
Age 6
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Holidays and Celebrations