Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
You’ll still see the conventional ghosts, princesses and superheroes – but some kids’ costumes more closely mimic adult outfits with sexualized or violent themes, from short-skirted “devil divas” to axe-wielding killers. It’s enough to lead some schools to restrict the kinds of costumes students can wear, or to ban costumes altogether.
Do these restraints impede on kids’ self-expression, or are they needed to prevent kids from following the crowd into mature themes they may not understand? Halloween is a time to make believe, dress up as someone else and have fun – so should we really worry that a kid’s costume choice is a sign they’re veering down a path of violence and debauchery?
One mom took a proactive approach, promoting positive female role models with a popular photo shoot of her daughter dressed as Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart and Jane Goodall. But these references are probably lost in a popular culture of rock stars and cartoon characters.
This week’s question: How can parents and educators promote creative Halloween self-expression without the sex and violence?
Margot Loveseth, owner of The Costume Shoppe in Calgary
“Start a real conversation with your child about what they like, what they admire or what makes them happy. Then come up with something that is uniquely theirs. Encourage your kids’ imagination, and help them bring it all to life.”
Lisa Borden, owner of conscious marketing firm Borden Communications in Toronto
“Teach your kids that their costume is a direct vote for the kind of world they want to live in, from the materials and makeup, to the character. Are you promoting fun and health or a toxic body and trashy world? An organic sheet with cut out eyes is the perfect eco-friendly ghost.”
Anne Rochon Ford, executive director of the Canadian Women’s Health Network in Winnipeg
“Young girls need constant positive reinforcement for the models of interesting women who are worth emulating. We do them a tremendous disservice by encouraging them to look like pop stars or sex kittens. Being a doctor, nurse or scientist is cool – let’s get that message out!”
Jeanne Williams, a child psychologist in Edmonton
“If your child is hooked on an inappropriate costume, first listen without judgement to their reasons. Do they want to shock people, to look like their friends, to be creative or scary? Then tell them what is important to you in terms of values, and together brainstorm ideas that meet each other’s needs.”