Trick-Or-Treat Solutions for children with selective mutism
Halloween is here and it’s nearly time for the little ones to go door-to-door, begging for candy. If you have a child venturing out, what costume did they choose? I wonder how many rolls of toilet paper costumes we’ll see this year?
My son loved beggars night. But unlike many children suffering with selective mutism, my son had an older brother who could speak for him. He never had the stress of those pressure words, “please” or “thank you” and didn’t have to say “trick-or-treat.” Hiding behind a mask made it even easier on him to escape the anxiety and defer to his brother. But many children don’t have this luxury. Sure, the parent/guardian could do all the talking for a younger child. But what about those kids who want to practice independence? They’re ready to venture up to the door on their own. But what will they do when they get there?
Have you talked to your child about the scenarios and expectations if they go out begging for candy? That should be step one, informing your child about what to expect. Give them options for how to respond, such as:
- Say “trick-or-treat”
- If you can’t say “trick-or-treat”, open your bag wide and nod your head
- If the person at the door insists you say “trick-or-treat”, you could hand them a card saying the words
- or venture out with a friend who can do the talking for them
Another idea to totally circumvent the stress of talking is to have your child dress up as a mime, clown, a silent movie character, or if they have a taste for a darker personality, Michael Myers from the movie Halloween. These characters are expected to be silent. If they’re comfortable with carrying a sign, it could say “trick-or-treat” on one side and “thank you” on the other. But a slight nod of the head would suffice in these costumes.
Whatever your child decides, encourage them to participate. It’s a perfect opportunity to practice their brave voice in secret. You could even tell them to put on their best acting hat and pretend they are really that character. This might help coax them into speaking. Or at the very least, they could sit at your door and help you hand out candy. Getting them involved in some way is important in their journey overcoming the anxiety.