Gone are the days of pumpkin and bee costumes. Now, the bloodier the disguise, the better. And your kids would much rather trick-or-treat sans parents. Manage your cool ghoul-without being a witch:
If the costume sounds too gory to you, it probably is. Disgusting outfits aren't appropriate for school functions or for younger kids, says Garry Gardner, M.D., chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics's Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Think of a compromise: Maybe your bloody mummy can be just a mummy, for instance.
Kids under age 10 need some sort of supervision. Yes, you can hang waaay back or send your younger guy out with a teenage sibling. But he'll need a watchful eye when crossing streets. "So many injuries occur every year from kids darting across dark roads," says Dr. Gardner. Put reflective tape on his costume so he's more visible to drivers.
Make sure older children stay in touch. Send your kid out with a cell phone and ask her to call or text you at regular intervals with where-I-am updates (this spares her embarrassing calls from you). Also, set parameters-which areas of your neighborhood are off-limits-as well as the time you expect her home.
Ghouls, goblins, and monsters, oh my! With Halloween just around the corner, your guy has access to loads of creepy programs on TV. Geoffrey E. Putt, Psy.D., director of parenting and family support services at Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio, gives gory-viewing guidelines:
Consider the content. Of course you're not going to let him watch a slasher flick, but what about made-for-school-age-kids creep shows like the Goosebumps series? Being spooked at this age is typically fine, notes Putt, as long as there is no physical harm, death or implied death, especially grotesque imagery, or intense or disturbing noises (such as heavy breathing or certain music -- remember Jaws?), and there is the proverbial happy ending.
Read the fine print of the rating. DVD cases and movie websites will tell you exactly what to expect. Maybe pop it in yourself for a sneak preview. Ideally, you'd watch the show with him, but that's not always doable. Try to at least stay within shouting distance.
Be aware of existing issues. If your child already has sleep troubles or separation anxiety, or you just notice he's stressed, switch the channel.