At a glance
Halloween can be tricky for kids with ADHD.
They can have trouble following safety rules and winding down.
You can help your child with ADHD have a fun and safe Halloween.
Halloween is exciting. It’s also noisy, chaotic, and full of distractions. These are challenges for kids who struggle with focus and self-control, like kids with ADHD. With a little planning, though, you can limit problems without limiting the fun for your child. Here are common Halloween challenges for kids with ADHD, and how to help.
1. Following safety rules
Statistics show that Halloween is one of the most dangerous days of the year for kids. When kids don’t pay attention or do things without thinking, it adds to the risks. Lots of kids race from house to house when trick-or-treating. But kids with ADHD are likely to dash off without looking both ways. Or they might get separated from the group.
What you can do: Talk through street-safety rules at least once before your child leaves the house. Talk about stranger safety, too. You can even map out your route ahead of time. (Read how one dad chose the “right” street for his high-energy son to trick-or-treat on.)
If your child is older, consider only letting your child go out in a small group. This can help limit distractions and make it more likely for your child to stay with the group.
2. Overdoing it on candy
Classroom parties, community events, playdates, trick-or-treating — candy and other treats are everywhere at Halloween. Lots of kids have trouble holding back when there’s so much good stuff around. But for kids who are impulsive, resisting temptation is especially hard.
What you can do: Make a “candy calendar.” Ask your child how much seems like the right amount to eat at parties, after trick-or-treating, and in the days after Halloween. Once you’ve decided, help your child fill out a calendar with the agreed-on amounts. Kids who are involved in decision-making are more motivated to follow through.
3. Winding down at bedtime
Kids with ADHD can have trouble going from active mode to sleep mode. And it can be especially hard to wind down after Halloween gatherings and trick-or-treating. Plus, kids with ADHD tend to have trouble managing emotions. They might be so disappointed when Halloween’s over that they get angry or have a tantrum.
What you can do: Leave plenty of wind-down time between trick-or-treating and bedtime. A day or two before Halloween, connect with your child to come up with a special bedtime routine just for that night. Maybe you’ll read a spooky (but not too scary) book or watch a Halloween show.
You could also make bedtime a little later. Just be sure to leave the same amount of time you always do for your child to get ready for bed.
4. Switching gears
Halloween is a busy day with lots of transitions. Kids move quickly from schoolwork to a class party, then race home to trick-or treat. This can be hard for kids with ADHD, who often have trouble switching gears and figuring out how to change their behavior based on the activity.
What you can do: Talk to the teacher about ways to ease transitions for your child at school. Maybe the teacher can give a five-minute warning before a new activity starts. Or your child could be assigned a job to do at the end of the party. That can help kids refocus and slow down before heading home.
5. Coping with sensory overload
What you can do: Test out the costume at home once or twice before the big day. Wearing regular clothes underneath may help. If not, try a fun shirt or sweatshirt with a Halloween theme.
If noise and lights are an issue, maybe you can skip neighborhood trick-or-treating. Malls, rec centers, and parks might offer a more low-key trick-or-treating experience. You can also create new Halloween traditions, like having a few friends over for a costume contest.
Test out Halloween costumes ahead of time.
Remind your child about safety rules before trick-or-treating.
Help your child wind down by agreeing to a special Halloween bedtime routine before the big day.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, PhD, NCC, DCMHS, LMHC is an author, licensed mental health counselor, and a Florida Supreme Court-certified family and circuit mediator. She specializes in anxiety, gaslighting, narcissistic abuse, and ADHD.