Not only is Halloween a night full of tricks and treats, but it’s also a great time to encourage social skills development in our kids. Some kids are naturals when it comes to interacting with others, but others need our help and guidance in getting them off to the right start.
Preschoolers and kids with Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and other Developmental Disabilities are especially prone to social skills difficulties. But truthfully, children of all ages can benefit from learning how to make the most out of their interactions with others. Halloween is the perfect time for teaching because unlike any other night, it gives our kids the opportunity to have multiple and repetitive social interactions to practice their skills and an immediate and consistent payoff, candy!
One of the best ways to start off a social interaction with another person is to look them in the eye. On Halloween, our kids have the chance to do this again and again, at each house they go to! Encourage your kids to make eye contact with people handing out candy and friends and neighbors that they might see on Halloween night. The earlier our children get the hang of this important social skill, the better.
Another critical beginning social skill is learning how to greet others. Of course, we normally encourage our children to say “Hello” or “Nice to meet you,” but on this night a good greeting goes something like, “Trick or Treat!” If your kids are anything like mine, I’m sure they’ll get the hang of this one pretty quickly.
After they get their candy, remind your children not to run off to the next house, but say thank you as they leave. Who doesn’t want to say thank you to someone who has just handed them a piece of candy? Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget this step when there is more candy waiting for you right next door. This might take several reminders, but learning how and when to express gratitude is a skill that our children will be able to use for the rest of their lives.
A favorite saying at my house (second only to “Monkey see, monkey do”) is “You get what you get, and you don’t pitch a fit!” On Halloween and throughout the year, it’s important to teach our children that they aren’t always going to get what they want. Make sure they know that they should still say thank you, even if they don’t like what they were given. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you let them know that Mommy and Daddy will be very happy to take any of the candy that they don’t like off their hands when they get home!
One of the hardest parts of Halloween for kids is waiting! First, they have to wait until the last day of the tenth month for Halloween to finally arrive. Then, they have to wait until nighttime for the fun to really begin. Once the trick-or-treating is underway, they have to wait behind other children who might have gotten to their neighbor’s door first. And finally, they have to wait until they get home to really get a good look at their loot (not to mention eating all of those yummy treats)! Remind your children ahead of time that they will probably have to be patient on Halloween night, and you’ll all be better prepared for a good evening.
Don’t miss out on using Halloween as an opportunity to practice social skills with your children. With these tricks, your child’s behavior might be your biggest treat of the night!