Happy Hello-ween

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Social Skills for Trick-or-Treaters

Kids greet many unknown adults as they make the rounds trick-or-treating. Follow these tips to turn this year’s candy fest into a social-skills training session. Meeting new people doesn’t have to be scary.

Go With a Group – Trick-or-treating with friends is safer and a whole lot more fun. Invite neighboring families to go door-to-door with yours, and host a low-key party afterwards. The kids can trade treats while you enjoy a little adult conversation.

Speak Clearly – The “tr” sound can be troubling for small kids, who often say “Twick or Tweat!” Practice at home before the big day and encourage kids to enunciate both the t and the r sounds (say, “ter”). Reluctant public speakers may be more comfortable in a group, where their voices blend in to the din.

Make Eye Contact – Looking others in the eye is a sign of respect and self-confidence. It’s also an important communication skill. Eye contact allows kids to show interest, see the other person’s reaction, and take turns in a conversation. Coach kids to look at the treat-giver’s eyes, not at their knees. If you’ll be handing out candy, bend down to make it easier for little kids to connect visually.

Keep Your Distance –Trick-or-treaters often crowd up front hoping to score their favorite candies. Remind your child that pushing isn’t pleasant. Kids should allow ample personal space to avoid stepping on the Bride of Frankenstein’s dress or jabbing someone with their own costume props.

Make Conversation – People often ask kids questions about their costumes, like, “What are you supposed to be?!” Prep your child to answer these queries. If she struggles to start conversations, coach her to ask about other kids’ costume choices. Complimenting a peer’s appearance is also a positive way to reach out.

Trust Your Gut – Halloween is supposed to be spooky, and kids should tune in to their instincts. Don’t push your child to go into a neighbor’s haunted house or to reach into a coffin for candy, even if you know it’s safe. Reinforce the value of that little voice inside that says “Beware!” It’s okay to back away from frightening situations.

Say “Thank You” – Kids may have more opportunities to practice gratitude on Halloween than on any other night of the year. Don’t let them move from one house to the next until they say “Thank You” loud and clear. Even the ugliest ghouls aren’t too foul for good manners.

Heidi Smith Luedtke is a psychologist and mom who can’t wait to plunder a mini-sized Snickers bar from her oldest child’s Halloween booty. She is the author of Detachment Parenting.

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