Even though princess no longer ranks as the Number One Halloween costume for kids in our country (super heroes have come out on top!) millions of girls are still drawn to the luscious hair, fancy dresses, and sparkling crowns that come with being a princess. “Absolutely embrace your girl’s wishes to dress up as a princess,” says Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “The important thing is that she have many diverse costume options available to her and that she makes that decision on her own, based on her own interests and passions. Allowing dramatic play and dress-up times to be girl-led helps your daughter learn about decision making and self-expression while also developing her creativity and imagination.”
If your girl does decide she wants to be a princess for Halloween—either one she’s invented, or one she knows from a film, book, or TV show—ask her what she admires about that princess, and why she’d like to dress up as her for this year’s festivities. Girls, especially those who are very young, might at first mention the princess’s beauty or style, so urge her to think deeper about the other qualities her favorite princess might have. Is she brave? Kind to others? Does she help people in her kingdom when they have problems? These characteristics are the same ones that will help your girl go far in life, so it’s important to help her recognize them in the characters she admires from an early age. It will also let her know that those traits are the things you value most in the people you look up to, above looks or material possessions.
It’s important to engage your kids in conversations about why they want to dress up as a certain character, creature, or person. “So many costumes for girls and young women focus on superficial appearances rather than abilities or even super powers, of the character, and many, even for young girls, are sexualized,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “So take the time to go beyond what her costume looks like and really have a conversation with her about why she’s attracted to that particular choice.”
By using your girl’s desire to dress as a princess as a teaching moment, you can help her understand that princesses (and all girls and women!) are so much more than simply pretty. They can be powerful and have great responsibilities. They can invent new ways of doing things, and help people live happier, healthier lives. They can truly change the world. And sure, they can have good hair while accomplishing those things, but really, that’s just icing on the cake.
Discussions around empathy, determination, and being open-minded, and how those things make any good leader—be it a princess, CEO, or even a mom—great will not only help her really own her role this holiday, but will serve as a model for how she should live her life. And that is perhaps the greatest trick or treat any parent could possibly ask for.