For a moment, think about the Halloween costumes we wore as kids as compared to the costumes our kids wear today. When we were kids, most costumes were homemade and “cute”. We saw kids dressed as jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, princesses, firemen, astronauts, etc. While some costumes of these characters or items are still available today (at least for very young children), many costumes are more gory, more violent, or more sexy. A quick trip through the seasonal aisle at your local discount store will reveal costume sets for the Scream character, Freddy Krueger, Transformers, medieval serving wenches, Supergirl, and nurses (the latter three all having short skirts and revealing necklines). Who gets to decide what’s appropriate? Where does the boundary between appropriate and inappropriate rest? What’s a parent to do?
Who gets to decide what’s appropriate?
Ultimately, it’s the parents’ decision what is appropriate for their kids and what is not. In response to the growing concern about the appropriateness of kids’ costumes, schools and other institutions have been creating rules regarding what constitutes “appropriate” in this context. However, parents still have the final word in that they can choose to comply with these rules, ignore them and risk running afoul of the institution involved, formally challenge the rules, or change institutional affiliations.
Where does the boundary between appropriate and inappropriate rest?
Each family must decide for themselves what constitutes “appropriate” and “inappropriate”. In this author’s opinion, costumes that are gory or violent are inappropriate for anyone under 10 years of age. Just as kids should not be watching gory or violent cartoons or movies, kids should not be costumed as characters that are gory or violent . This is because frequent exposure to gore and violence (even fictional gore and violence) has a tendency to desensitize kids to these traumas of real-life human experience. It is further this author’s opinion that sexy costumes are inappropriate for kids of any age. Sexualizing kids is inappropriate . . . always.
What’s a parent to do?
Parents must form their own opinions about what constitutes “appropriate” and “inappropriate”. If their kids want costumes that the parents perceive to be inappropriate, parents must have age-appropriate conversation with their kids about appropriateness. This conversation may go as follows.
6-year-old daughter: I want to be a ninja for Halloween.
Parent: I understand. However, we don’t encourage violence in this household. You know that hitting others is wrong. There are peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. Can you choose a costume that does not portray violence?
Daughter: But everybody’s going as a ninja, Transformer, or something like that.
Parent: That may be so, but I’m responsible for you, not the other kids. I want you to grow up surrounded by love, peace, and calm. I don’t want to expose you to violence, even in movies or costumes. It’s one of the icky sides of human nature, and I’d like to shelter you from that. Ok?
By forming your own opinions about what constitutes “appropriate” and “inappropriate” and reinforcing your boundaries with your kids and the institutions with which they may be involved, you will be taking an active role in parenting, setting the tone for your family, and ensuring that your kids are raised with the boundaries that you support.