Removing the Pressure of Halloween

As special needs parents, certain things matter to us.

Maybe it’s the perfect family photo or having a birthday party or your child with needs attending church for a sibling’s baptism.

I want to tell you, it’s okay to care about these things. It’s okay to want to try, and continuing to try. Because if you are like me, it’s about helping your child to be successful and ultimately your family.

That’s how a holiday like Halloween is for me. It’s about so much more than the costume and the candy. Heck, that stuff doesn’t even matter to me.

It’s about being together. It’s about being in the community. It’s about our kids having fun. It’s about them having a typical experience. It’s about taking the photo, making the memories, and being together as a family.

But in our world, the world of autism, ADHD, and anxiety, most of these experiences can feel impossible.

So this year, I got creative.

I thought about all the pressure that goes into Halloween night at our house.

Grandma and Grandpa come over.

Kids are in and out of the house.

It’s loud. It’s chaotic.

Itchy, hot costumes. Leaving home after dark. Walking.

So, I thought, let’s practice. Let’s see if our son can have success without all of that pressure.

Last week I messaged 5 of our neighbors. I asked them if we could stop by on Sunday afternoon and practice trick-or-treating.

Everyone said yes! They were so excited.

I let them know that Cooper may have a hard time. He may sit down. He may try and go in their house. He may meltdown. But just give me time to work through it with him.

Without pressure. We go at our own pace. We just need time.

Our family talked about it all week. Casually.

I added trick-or-treating to the calendar. We worked on costume tolerance during at night.

On Sunday morning we started chatting about our day.

We made a social story. We talked through what we planned to do.

Cooper, mommy and daddy will put on their costumes.

They will walk to 3 houses. (We were hoping for 5!)

They will say ‘boo!’ or use their sign to say ‘trick-or-treat!’

They will get candy and maybe, just maybe paper!

And after they can come home.

He was excited and nervous. Hello anxiety.

Outside we went. The three of us in full costume.

Dozens of neighborhood kids ran up to us. Excited. ‘HI COOPER!’

Cooper smiled and went on his way. He was on a mission. He had 3 houses to go too.

Drivers turned their heads as they drove by. Lots of waves and smiles.

The first two houses were a challenge. The third had paper. The fourth and fifth were a huge success.

See, it just takes him time. Practicing, pressure free, with kind, patient people.

One of our sweet neighbors even had a handful of paper for him.

Cooper was so excited he immediately sat down and began sorting it.

And home we went.

Our son was successful. Our family was successful.

As I took my costume off I realized that I just had one of the best days of my life.

That sounds silly right? It’s the truth though.

When you have a child plagued by anxiety, you know that his happiest days are always his hardest days.

Anxiety takes hold of him and refuses to let go. He wants so bad to try but he is consumed.

It wasn’t like that today.

We took away the dark, the scary, the cold, the noise, the chaos, the pressure to perform, the unknown of trick-or-treating, and we let our son go at his own pace.

I can say with full confidence, today was one of the best days of my parenting life. I watched my son enjoy himself in the community. And our family had a blast too.

I also realized trick-or-treating early was genius. At first I thought it was practice for the 31st. But now I realize that was his Halloween.

Now on Halloween, we can take our other two children and Cooper can help Grandma hand out candy. He loves doing that. There will be no expectations to leave home at night and walk around in the cold.

Here is what I have learned on this journey. Do what helps your child to be successful. That is what matters. And remember, it doesn’t have to be picture perfect.

And the bonus…you get to spread a whole lot of lot of autism awareness too.

Interested in writing for Finding Cooper’s Voice? LEARN MORE

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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