How to help your child pick an appropriate Halloween costume


by KING 5 News

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many kids, as they have a chance to dress up in fun costumes. But there is a noticeable growing trend of costumes that are not age appropriate. Sarina Natkin of GROW Parenting joins KING 5 to discuss how parents can help pick a costume that they are comfortable with in this week's Parent to Parent.

Why are we seeing these adult-like costumes for kids in recent years?

Images of young and older children alike in so-called “sexy” and revealing costumes are upsetting many parents. This is not just a Halloween problem : From French Vogue doing a spread on lingerie for children to our tween and teen role models wearing less and less every day, this is a problem parents are struggling with every day. The hyper-sexualization of children is just an extension of our society in general.  

How does it impact our children?

As we continue to equate attractiveness and appearances with success, we continue to teach our children that what their body looks like and how much of it they are willing to show is what is really valued. Our kids start internalizing these messages from an early age. Princesses get the prince. Be the quarterback, and all the pretty girls will like you. As our children hit the tween and teen years, the pressure to look a certain way is leading to lowed self-esteem and increased rates of eating disorders, both of which can affect learning and the brain for years to come.

How can parents navigate all the choices when it comes to Halloween costumes?

1. Know that role play is okay within clear limits

Adults and children alike enjoy playing with roles. Our job as parents is to set some healthy boundaries around that play. For example, kids love playing with the idea of driving, but we don't actually let them drive real cars until they are legally old enough. Creating guidelines around acceptable clothing choices with your child and adjusting as they develop their own sense of self is really important. At Halloween, the question becomes how that costume fits into the family values about clothing choices.

2. It's never too early to start the conversation

With young kids, this may look like: "Wow, if Ariel from the little mermaid were a real person, do you think she could even stand up with a body so much tinier than her head? What makes someone pretty to you- what they look like or what they do and say?" With an older child, this may look like: "Does dressing sexy make a doctor a better doctor? How would it impact a doctor doing their job?” Ask your child why they want to be that character, what they like about him or her, and see how you can work together to create an age-appropriate costume that has those traits without being sexual. This is not just a discussion to have with girls. Boys are feeling the push to look more like an idealized image of a “real man” too, as we begin to see boy costumes with built-in six packs.

3. Lead by example    

Pay attention to how you talk about your own body and the bodies of others. What images of adults are around your house, in both print and electronic media sources?