With Halloween rapidly approaching parents are frantically try to fulfill their child’s costume desire and everyone is asking every child, “So what do you want to be this Halloween?”

Kids LOVE Halloween. Besides all the candy, Halloween is the day they get to be who they want to be.

Of course, this is not the only time over their life span when they will be asked this question. “What do you want to be…when you grow up?” or “What do you plan do to after school?” are variations on the same theme. But Halloween is different because it holds none of the restrictions of those future variations of the question.  Halloween is all wish fulfillment, fantasy and imagination.

Can we learn anything from those early costume choices? What does it say about the child who wishes to be a princess or a fireman or a monster?

Disney Princesses are big, especially with the preschool set. If you ask a preschooler, WHY?” she may say, “She is so pretty.” And collective groans may be heard from all the moms who want to raise strong, independent girls. These young choices are more reflective of good marketing than individual choice. This phase will pass.

This year a line of Strong Women costumes was introduced; I saw grade schoolers modeling Freida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and the unfortunate choice of an (now pulled from store shelves) Anne Frank costume.  This are outfits MOMS want. No five-year-old wants to be Ruth Bader Ginsberg when the Belle Ballgown awaits.

Boys are not immune from the desire to be a movie characters; they may want to be a ninja turtle or spiderman. Some want to be monsters or wild animals.

After what seems like years of suffering through watching your child’s costume reflect Disney’s top hit movie, you have given up trying to make the case that Golda Meir or Jonas Salk costumes have more substance than, say, Elsa or Blue Ranger. However, this year your sweet child shifts gears and informs you that she wants to be a pirate.

A pirate? You groan, “If not Hillary Clinton then at least, why not Hermione from Harry Potter?”

Before you panic and envision a life of looting and lawlessness, ask yourself, “What personality traits does this character have that my child may desire?” For example, a seven-year-old boy who is teased for being shorter than his classmates, may want to dress as a caveman, resplendent to a club (Hopefully a Nerf club) In character he uses his new adopted persona to slug the kids who are picking on him. Or that little girl, who works so hard to be “perfect” in school, as a pirate she gets to be a bit of a bad ass. Oh, and the child who is always impeccably dressed who wants to be a hobo with soot all over their face?

No need to start googling child therapists, or even worse try to have a heart to heart with your child about wardrobe choices, just observe and consider this; no matter what you child grows up “to be” s/he will always dress a bit for the part. After all, we all do it-before a job interview or important meeting we buy a “power suit” or if we are going to a reunion or special event, we shop for something that makes us feel…Gorgeous? Young? Successful? Thin? Strong? Intimidating? Most of us have learned to use clothes to empower, protect, hide, or flaunt something about ourselves.

The time of dressing your sweet baby up as a pea pod or carrot or bunny is gone. As children grow they will begin to discover who they are and how they feel about themselves. The Halloween costume they choose, gives them a day where they get to be anything they want. Don’t be shocked at how drastically the choices change from year to year. Throughout our life span, we are constantly growing and evolving and discovering. How we manage our feelings of self-doubt and insecurity is part of resilience, Sometimes, the right outfit can help foster our sense of confidence. Let their little freak flags fly and enjoy.


© 2017/ Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She frequently dresses up as a therapist.

She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce, now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.






  1. Msesq on the 22. Oct, 2017 remarked #

    I love the Wonder Woman option this year a butt kicking Amaxon who can out fight a man and has more courage than the men

    • Donna Ferber on the 22. Oct, 2017 remarked #

      What was your favorite costume as a kid?

  2. Msesq on the 22. Oct, 2017 remarked #

    We dressed up mostly as hobos or ghosts from the rag bag, didn’t have money for store bought costumes. I didn’t really have a favorite

  3. Wendy on the 30. Oct, 2017 remarked #

    I loved this post. I never really put much thought into the ‘why’ behind a costume choice, but it makes a lot of sense. I’m with Msesq, I often dressed as a hobo from the rag bag. I’m pondering the idea of loosening the chains of perfectionism.

    Hmmmm, as I enter into my minimalism stage – I’m purging a lot of clothing. (less is more) Getting rid of the costumes with which I adorn myself. Maybe I’ve come full circle and I’m trying to let go of perfectionism. One can hope. 🙂

    • Donna Ferber on the 05. Nov, 2017 remarked #

      Don’t you think that throughout our lives we ‘re always in some sort of costume? Clothes give us a way to express who we are, who we want to be and how we want the world to see us. We are grown ups letting our inner child play “dress up”!

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