Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network
It’s October and with the season comes such traditions as pumpkins, fall leaves, trick or treat, and brisk mornings. One only needs to look at theater listings or the aisles of your local department store to see signs of Halloween. Who remembers the first time you saw the movie Halloween and heard Jamie Lee Curtis scream? Have you seen any cars named Christine lately? How many hockey masks do you have? Do crows make you shiver? Why is that balloon tied to the storm drain?
If you are one who enjoys the season, frights can be fun and create memories worth sharing. However, for many youth and adults, the signs and sounds of the season can trigger memories of experiences scarier than most of us can imagine. Just like you, Safe Place® is committed to helping youth not only BE safe but FEEL safe. As you think about how to connect with youth during this time of year, consider the following activities:
- Invite youth to create a collage (on paper or digitally) of the images that remind them of feeling safe. Make sure there are sufficient options to address differences across culture, age, and experience.
- Have discussions with youth new to your program about any aspect of your organization’s physical layout that is frightening or uncomfortable for them.
- Host a group discussion of things youth rely on when they’re scared. Be prepared to respond when youth say they are never scared or when they say they have nothing or no one to rely on in those moments.
- Ensure you are not selecting movies for group viewing or seasonal activities without considering the needs of each youth. Allow for alternative activities without disparagement. Adults working with youth may not recognize specific triggers. Corn mazes may evoke feelings of being lost. Haunted houses may trigger unsuspected reactions. Pumpkins that smile are just wrong.
If the sound of chain saws make you cringe and the idea of summer camp makes you nauseous, you understand the power of images, sounds, and, memories. Work with your staff to create safe memories for the youth you serve. It will be the treat they never forget.
By: Danielle White, Executive Administrative Assistant, National Safe Place Network / RHYTTAC
As Halloween approaches, many people seek out the seasonal thrills and chills. For some, however, the scariest part of Halloween is not the ghosts and goblins. Children are twice as likely to be hit by cars on Halloween, according to national statistics. Additionally, costumes and decorations can create tripping and fire hazards, while candy and other Halloween goodies can pose health risks.
It’s not all demons and dangers, though. By following some basic safety guidelines, everyone can have a safe and spooky Halloween!
- When picking out costumes, be sure to look for flame resistant materials such as nylon and polyester. Store bought costumes will often be labeled as “flame resistant.”
- To avoid trips and falls, use face paint or makeup instead of masks for maximum visibility and ensure that the costumes are an appropriate length.
- If props include swords or other blades, make sure they are pliable and smooth. Such precautions will reduce the risk of fall-related injuries.
- Test face paint and makeup in a small area before applying it to the entire face. This will minimize the risk of skin irritation or other allergic reactions. Be sure to wash off all paint and makeup before bed.
- Choose bright or light colors when possible. If costumes are dark, attach reflective tape or other light sources. Have youth carry flashlights or glow sticks at all times.
- Avoid oversized clothing and shoes, as well as costume pieces that stick out so far as to be uncontrollable around open flames, doorways, or faces.
TRICK OR TREATING SAFETY
- Establish a pre-planned route.
- When planning your route, check the sex offender registry and keep youth away from those houses.
- Go out in groups and make sure there are plenty of chaperones
- Provide all youth with contact information, including addresses and cell phone numbers, in case anyone gets separated.
- Serve a filling meal prior to trick-or-treating to reduce the temptation to snack on candy before it has been checked.
- Review the difference between tricks and vandalism. Hold youth accountable for their actions.
- Walk safely! Stay on sidewalks when possible. If you must be in the road, stay on the far edge and walk facing the oncoming traffic. Only cross the street at corners or crosswalks. Don’t run across the street and never cross between parked cars.
- Do not allow youth to enter any homes.
- As tempting as they may be, avoid homemade treats offered by strangers. Stick to factory-wrapped goodies instead. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering before consuming (common signs of tampering include: unusual appearance, discoloration, torn wrappers, or tiny pinholes). Be aware of any allergies (especially nuts) and help youth steer clear.
- Slow down and be alert when driving in residential areas.
- Enter and exit driveways or alleys slowly and carefully.
- Eliminate distractions inside the car so that you can concentrate on your surroundings.
- Turn on headlights earlier in the evening to help spot children in dark costumes.
- Be aware of your local trick-or-treating hours and be especially alert during those times.
If trick or treating is not an option, consider hosting an event instead. This can be a fun alternative in a controlled environment and can be accomplished with minimal planning. Here are a few things to consider:
- Provide healthy treats as well as candy—fruits, veggies, cheese, low-calorie treats, and drink options other than soda.
- Use party games to promote physical activity while having fun.
- Keep walking paths, stairs, and other high traffic areas well-lit and free of obstacles.
- Never leave jack-o-lanterns or candles unattended or on the floor. Keep them on sturdy tables or shelves away from walkways, doorsteps, and curtains.
- Activities can include: costume contests, jack-o-lantern carving, cookie decorating, ghost stories (try ghost story mad libs for a funny twist), and Halloween themed games.
- If bobbing for apples, be sure to reduce bacterial contamination by thoroughly washing them with running water and removing any dirt or other obvious spots.
However you choose to spend your Halloween, be sure to celebrate safely so that everyone can enjoy this spook-tacular holiday and live to haunt another day.