How to Minimize Risk During a Pandemic While Still Having Fun this Halloween

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Earlier this month, Dr. Tista Ghosh was asked by The New York Times and Forbes to share her thoughts on how families can celebrate Halloween safely during a pandemic after the CDC announced their recommendations. Dr. Ghosh and our team of clinicians are discussing these concerns and other related COVID-19 safety questions every day, guiding concerned parents on how to navigate the pandemic. 

 

 

Here are a few of her tips for minimizing risk next week, along with the mental health considerations that parents and families should be looking out for this year.

 


What are your thoughts on the CDC’s guidelines and is there a way to participate in Halloween activities? 

The CDC’s recommendations took a “middle of road” approach to balance the guidelines, grounding them in science and taking personal freedoms into consideration. Their recommendations make sense and there are ways to participate in Halloween that could minimize risk. While this Halloween will certainly not be business as usual, there is a way for kids (and adults) to still have fun. 

Here are a few ideas if you are planning on hosting activities or handing out candy from home that I’ve heard from my patients and network:

  • Put your baskets of candies on the front lawn, at least 6 feet apart from where you might be standing if you’re choosing to greet neighborhood trick or treaters
  • Have halloween parties in outdoor settings where kids stay in designated spots, or outdoor costume fashion shows.
  • Consider incorporating gloves or even hand sanitizer into costumes
  • For teenagers, consider hosting an adult-supervised, scary movie night in the backyard; make it a BYOLC (bring your own lawn chair) and BYOF event, sitting 6 feet apart with masks and costumes
  • Play games that build in social distancing, like a stay in your place freeze tag set to Halloween music, using pool noodles as part of a conga line, etc.

If you’re taking your kids out for the evening event, consider the following:

  • Carry hand sanitizer
  • Avoid face-to-face contact
  • Plan your route to only visit homes or neighborhoods where you know the hosts will adhere to the proper social distancing and other COVID-19 risk-minimizing procedures
  • Do not rely on the Halloween costume mask, as the CDC advised

 

Why should parents who may be very nervous about taking on risks “just for Halloween” consider doing so? 

Mental health is so important right now. Completely taking away Halloween can be detrimental to mental health issues kids are facing. 

We speak to our members across the 130+ employers we work with from a variety of different sectors and we are hearing the same thing: people are suffering from mental health, depression and anxiety. People who do not have a history of mental health are becoming depressed, including kids. 

For this Halloween, it is important to balance activities with mental health risks and look at ways to minimize risk rather than reducing risk to zero, because that is just simply not possible.

 

Some parents might not be aware that their kids are taking the disruption to Halloween particularly hard. What are the signs they should look for? 

Speaking from my perspective as a parent, many kids will not tell you they’re depressed. Depending on their age, they may express their depression in the form of irritability, a rise in tantrums, isolating themselves in their rooms, becoming less interactive on social media, etc. 

Be on the lookout for excessive emotional behavior or any other unusual behavior.

Even just talking to your child about what’s going on and how they’re feeling can be helpful. 

Being aware that holidays like Halloween mean a lot to kids. Finding ways to give them that opportunity to participate while minimizing risk can be an important boost to mental health right now.

Remember that the costume aspect of Halloween is likely crucial for your younger children. For my youngest child, who is under 10, having a costume is huge, along with the ability to show the costume to other people. Even if that means you are only sharing the costume via a virtual hangout or virtual costume party, that’s far better for their mental health than nothing.  

 

A lot of the activities mentioned rely on the outdoors; what if you live in an apartment building and typically trick or treat in the confines of your building?

If it’s possible, consider doing things on your balcony. If that’s not possible, create as much cross ventilation as you can by opening windows and doors if you plan to have people come visit you. 

 

It is important to balance mental health and minimizing risk, versus trying to create a zero-risk experience. Use your mental health alongside science as a guide to reduce risk as much as possible if there is any activity you need to participate in that is very important, whether that’s Halloween, holiday travel, seeing family, etc.

If you are a Grand Rounds member and still have questions on how to minimize risk for your family, please call us at 1-800-929-0926 or message us through our member portal.

If you are an employer who would like to connect your employees with telemedicine or healthcare navigation resources, please contact us here.

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