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Children, Halloween and COVID: Advice for families from Virginia Tech expert

halloween 2020
(© Christine Glade – stock.adobe.com)

Even in the age of COVID, parents should find safe ways to allow kids to return to the tradition of trick-or-treating this Halloween, says Virginia Tech professor of psychology and clinical child psychologist Tom Ollendick.

“It’s almost like going back to school, church or the movies or to visit family. It is another event-marker. For Halloween, it’s a milestone, almost literally because kids so look forward to trick-or-treating each year.  It’s an event, a happy holiday for most kids,” said Ollendick, an expert in clinical child and adolescent psychology, developmental psychopathology, cognitive behavior therapy, and social cognitive learning theory who teaches in the College of Science at Virginia Tech.

“There is no doubt, last year youngsters missed out on something that they look forward to.  We’ve done studies on how anxiety and stress is mounting in kids. Things that are fun like this can help in so many ways,” he said.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she trick-or-treating in small groups is a good option for kids. “I wouldn’t necessarily go to a crowded Halloween party,” she said,

Ollendick offers the following advice for parents who wonder whether it’s safe to trick or treat this year.

“First, go a little bit earlier than usual, say 5 or 6 o’clock when there’s still some daylight.  Go with another child or two or with adults. As much as possible, make it a family activity and do it in a way the youngster and the whole family can have fun.”

“The main point is this is an important time for children, and it’s important that we do as much as we can to make it as normal as we can. And to not steer away from it and not be stuck at home – and thinking they can’t go out, when they really can under safe conditions. Try to make it as normal and as much fun as possible.”