Child-Appropriate Costumes: Violence, Sexuality, And Insensitivity

by Jordan Marston - Date: 2006-11-28 - Word Count: 626 Share This!

So your daughter wants to be Wonder Woman for Hallowe'en, or your son wants to be Batman. They're both morally appropriate superheroes, and you don't see any problem with that. But what should you pay attention to in keeping your children's costumes appropriate?

Playing with Guns

One of the major factors in keeping your child's costume appropriate is making sure that it isn't violent. Some parents choose to allow their children to play with guns and other weapons. Other parents are more reticent about fostering violent or insensitive behaviour in their children.

Playing with guns does affect children. As Dr. Robert Needleman says, "A child playing with guns experiences a certain excitement related to shooting."

It is important to be consistent in the message that you send children. Children understand if you explain, "We don't allow guns in the house, not even toy guns." Make up your rules before your child talks you in a circle. Perhaps you do not allow guns, but you would allow a whip for a Catwoman or Indiana Jones costume. Why or why not is this allowed? Is it that gun violence is more dangerous and prevalent in our society?

If you do allow your child to take any weapons (such as Wonder Woman's lasso of Truth, or King Arthur's sword, Excalibur), make sure that the sharp edges are all blunted. Make sure that any object that can be used to hit someone is soft. Any rope object should be tied with a knot that comes undone at a gentle tug. Supervise your children when they use these objects.

Water guns can easily replace toy guns, and to some parents, these are less offensive. A child with a water gun is concerned with getting other people wet, not with imaginary bullets. However, if you have a no guns in the house rule, you might consider getting your children other objects that squirt water so they too can enjoy the fun of squirting each other.

Sexually Explicit Costumes

Wonder Woman might be a bastion of American morality, but her costume certain leaves part of the body to be covered. Will you allow your daughter to wear a midriff baring genie costume? Will you allow your son to wear (temperature permitting) a shirtless Tarzan costume? Are you concerned about the messages that revealing costumes send to your children?

As a parent, you have a right to veto certain costumes. You can explain to your children (and often this is more of an issue with young girls) that they can be many interesting things without having to remove their clothes. You can ask that they wear their hula costume over top of another shirt or pants.

Insensitive Costumes

Is it culturally insensitive to let your child dress up as a stereotypical Indian? If you are concerned about racial or other stereotypes in your child's costume, you can address the situation with them. You might choose to allow your child to keep the costume or not, depending on their understanding of the situation.

One way to explain is to say that "although many movies used to portray samurai masters (or other group) like this, now we realize that they are each different, just like you are different than all of your friends." You can explain how it would hurt someone else's feeling to see that costume.

You can also emphasize to your child that the costume represents only one person. Instead of being "an Indian," the costume can be of Tanto in particular.

Remember that being overly vigilant about children's costumes can sometimes be counterproductive. If you discuss issues of stereotypes, gender, and violence, with your children, they will be better equipped to deal with the real world. And sometimes there is no harm in dressing up in a pretty ballerina costume or as a weapon-wielding comic book superhero.

For some superhero costumes ideas, visit The Guide to Costumes. Find out all the key points to make your costume or your child's costume shine.
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