Purim is a happy and joyous occasion for Jews, but forcing babies and small children to masquerade in unwanted costumes can cause them trauma, according to psychologist Shlomit Kanotopsky.
“Parents who buy costumes for babies often do it for themselves," says the psychologist, who works at the Ziv Hospital, located in the northern Galilee city of Tzfat. She suggests parents be especially sensitive to children’s fears and trauma that can develop by wearing unwanted costumes, which parents sometimes insist on to justify what often is an expensive purchase.
Masquerading is a tradition on Purim, when Jews celebrate the topsy-turvy story in the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther), portraying the downfall of the evil Haman who prepared to annihilate Jews in the kingdom of Persia. Queen Esther ”unmasked” Haman’s intentions at a reception she arranged with him and the king.
Adults and older children know Purim as a happy occasion and enjoy masquerading, but many little children cry and suffer from trauma during the holiday, says Kanotopsky. She explains that changing identities is not always good for little children, who are in the process of developing their own identities and need a stable environment.
Trauma and fears from wearing unwanted costumes can affect their self-esteem and security, she adds.
“It is important not to force children to dress up,” according to Kanotopsky, who suggests that parents help get their children acquainted with a costume several days ahead of time and then “let the children play with it” without dressing up.
“If the costume threatens the child, parents should wait until next year and then perhaps he or she will accept it with joy,” she advises. “Sometimes, parents buy costumes because that is how they want to see their child, who is not always interested in the same costume, causing a real crisis.”