It's holiday shopping season once again! And by that, of course, I mean hitting the stores to get just the right Halloween outfits for the whole family. This time of year is rivaling the December holidays in terms of crowded store aisles, long lines, and spending more than we intended. But as parents, we have an additional headache to consider: avoiding the utterly inappropriate kids' Halloween costumes that have permeated the market in recent years.
It used to be that the only issues moms had to worry about when it came to costumes were the price and whether they'd have to ruin the whole effect by putting a coat over the ensemble so their kids wouldn't freeze to death while canvassing the neighborhood. Today, shopping for a Halloween costume means navigating a minefield of offensive, culturally insensitive, overly creepy, and just plain tacky clothing choices.
If you or your kids have your heart set on particular characters for the holiday, I'm not trying to be a buzzkill. But before you hand over your debit card at the party store, think about what impression you want your children to leave on the world, and whether that impression could come back to hurt them later on, particularly if you plan to share their images on social media. And if your child is too young to make their own costume choices, is it fair to take advantage of that by dressing them in a tasteless getup?
Let's bring back the fun and innocence of the holiday for our kids by sticking to the superheroes, princesses, Nickelodeon characters, and not-so-spooky cats and wizards. Save the stronger stuff for the grown-up parties, and let your kids trick-or-treat without fear that they (or you) will be criticized for dressing them in questionable options like these.
1. Killer Clown
Ordinary clowns are terrifying enough as it is (coulrophobia is a thing, people, per The Guardian). When they turn homicidal, it's enough to turn you off circuses for life. Yet that hasn't stopped the costume industry from making children's versions of Pennywise and other murderous clowns, complete with maniacal masks and bloody prop weapons. There ought to be an enforceable rule about Halloween: Kids shouldn't be giving adults nightmares.
2. Racially Appropriative Costumes
Movie characters such as Mulan, Tiana, Pocahontas, and Black Panther may be popular in your household, but if you don't share their racial background, you may be seen as insensitive if you dress your child as one of these figures. Blogger Sachi Feris addressed this exact issue in a viral blog last year, when she explained why she wouldn't let her daughter dress as Moana for Halloween. This may spark a conversation with your kids on race and appropriation; not the most comfortable of topics, but a necessary one.
3. Costumes Celebrating Criminals
It may seem hilarious to dress a 6 month old as a prisoner or a first grader as a masked bandit, but flash forward a few years, and it may not seem so funny. Last year, 22 percent of high schoolers reported being involved in a physical fight and another 16 percent said they'd brought a weapon to school, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The U.S. Department of Justice added that on just one given day in 2016, more than 45,500 juveniles were held in residential correction facilities.
Costumes representing questionable role models send mixed messages. Can you lecture your son about respecting girls one day and send him out trick-or-treating as a pimp the next? Is it okay to dress your child as a '20s gangster if you've signed every gun control petition that comes to your inbox?
4. Costumes Stereotyping Age
It's hard enough for men and women of a certain age to find work, support themselves after retirement, or see themselves represented in the media as anything other than crotchety mentors or users of adult bladder control pads. Why support the ageists by putting your child in a housedress, slippers, gray granny wig, and walker?
5. Too-Sexy Girls' Costumes
Particularly in a year when #MeToo has become a rallying cry, it should be more important than ever to avoid costumes that sexualize young girls. Witch and cheerleader outfits with miniskirts, fishnet stockings, off-the-shoulder shirts, and similar getups are available in child sizes; even more disturbingly, the catalog photos often show girls in pouty hand-on-hip poses. Join the resistance and opt for more age-appropriate styles.
6. Totally Tasteless Costumes
And then there are the Halloween costumes that are so gross, it's hard to imagine that anyone ever looked at the designs, signed off on them, and said, "We need a half million of these by September!" Look at all the selections online and in the Halloween stores, and you'll see plenty of SMH outfits for kids. Toilets. Poop emojis (in both brown and rainbow versions, thank you). Inflatable pants that look like a dog is biting your kid's bottom. Even (heaven help us) a costume that looks like a whoopee cushion. When shopping for your children, ask yourself: When they see their Halloween pictures on Instagram 10 years from now, will they be delighted, or mortified? When in doubt, go with a safer option.