As Halloween is just around the corner, my 13-year-old daughter is starting to share with me her ideas for costumes. She’s shown more interest in sexual costumes this year, like a “sexy witch” or a “sexy nurse”. How do I know what is appropriate for her to wear and what is an appropriate response to her interest in these provocative costumes? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
What a great question! Here’s my two cents on controversial Halloween costumes:
First, when it comes to Halloween, how much control should a parent be able to exercise over how their children look on this day?
I have seen kids crying in the isles of Walmart because they want to go out as a favourite super hero but their parent refused, thinking they would look cuter going as a bunny. This is overstepping IMHO.
The day is meant to be fun for the child, so you should put your personal opinions aside.
Or should you?
What about when they are older and they want to dress up in a costume that is risqué? Say, a drag queen in fishnets and corset or a sexy nurse? Maybe you think their interpretation of little red riding hood looks more like a fetish fantasy? Yeah – now we entering murky territory.
Halloween has always been about stepping outside of the constraints of daily living and masquerading around as something other than ourselves – if only for a few hours. To have an outrageous persona that isn’t us, really is fun.
Some teens want a safe place to experiment with crossdressing and other sexual expression. So ,the conversation becomes “what message are you wanting to send out and signal to others, and are you okay with those interpretations?”.
If your teen is okay with it – then let’s examine what part is upsetting to us. You will have more sway with your teen by saying “I am just not mentally prepared to think of you as someone who is sexual at this age yet, it’s hard for us parents to get our head around this” or “ I am afraid you will invite unwanted attention from people who don’t know you and who are not trusted to behave well – especially if alcohol is involved”.
The ability to say “no” and give consent are big and real issues that many of our youngsters face. Most are not well versed and trained around such issues, sadly.
But, if you have been staying on top of your child’s sexual and emotional development. If they have self-esteem and understand consent and how to party safely, then frankly you’ve done your good parenting and I say step back! You don’t have to like it. You can tell them it goes against your personal values, but if you put your foot down too hard you are likely to invite a kid who simply sneaks around you, and puts on their costume at the party anyways.
Of course, I wouldn’t pay for something that goes against my beliefs. So, feel free to put the wallet away.
Now, you may also find that your teen wants to wear a costume that is culturally insensitive, racist, or degrading of others in some way. This has to be brought to their attention. Remember, it’s a conversation about diversity, stereotypes, cultural biases and prejudices. It is not a lecture about “over my dead body are you leaving the house looking like this!”. Statements like this focus on parental control, when you should have faith that your child can be educated on the thoughts you have about the appropriateness of their choices.
Many adults have not taken pause to think about why some classic Halloween costumes offend: Would you were black face? No? Then, the same applies for stereotype and appropriated costumes of other cultures. For example, Indigenous people, Asians, Inuit, Rastafarians, Muslims, Hawaiians and more. If this sounds too politically correct, try looking it from the viewpoint of the marginalized group.
Finally, there are a million ways to dress for Halloween. There is lots of room to have fun and to also be sensitive to others. It’s okay to explain why dressing like Hitler or a terrorist is simply not okay.
If they argue with you – ask them why they are so hell bent on dressing in that costume anyways? Why even risk it? Why even go near the issue that is contentious? It could be that the conversation at hand is bigger than just a Halloween costume. This can be an organic way to bring up important topics such as sexuality, identity, safety, respect and diversity.