Halloween can be a wonderful and exciting time of the year for our children. They love to dress up, eat candy, and make fun Halloween crafts. But the holiday can also be a source of fear or anxiety for many kids. So how can parents prepare to make Halloween less scary for their children?
According to one study, 43% of children between ages 6 and 12 had many fears and concerns. These include fears of darkness, particularly being left alone in the dark. Other fears include animals, fires, high places, or thunderstorms. Some children see things on TV and in newspapers that can cause them to have fears, such as fear of burglars, kidnappers, or war. If there has been a recent serious illness or death in the family, children may fear that this will also happen to them or to other loved ones.
For some children, fears can become so extreme, persistent, and focused that they develop into phobias, which are strong and irrational fears. These can become so persistent and debilitating that they can interfere with a child’s usual daily activities. For example, a child’s phobia about dogs may make him so panicky that he refuses to go outdoors because there might be a dog there. Or a child’s fear of a burglar may make her have to sleep with her parents at night.
Fortunately, most phobias are quite treatable and, in general, are not a sign of serious mental illness requiring therapy. However, if your child’s anxieties persist and interfere with the enjoyment of day-to-day life, they might benefit from professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologist who specializes in treating phobias.
Halloween can become a source of fear for young children, and some of these fears can develop into phobias. Children may fear that skeletons, ghosts, or zombies will come into their homes and hurt them, or they might be frightened that they will run into a monster or a killer while out trick-or-treating. So how can we help our children to have a fun Halloween while minimizing fears?
First, start preparing your child early for Halloween. Children do best with new or unusual situations if they have time to prepare and know more about what will happen. Try reading books about Halloween or sharing positive stories about your own Halloween experiences growing up. Introduce the idea that Halloween can sometimes seem scary, but it is all pretend.
Also, do not minimize your child’s fears. Instead, let them know that you understand what they are feeling. Help them label feelings they might not have words for, such as “Are you nervous about seeing the scary skeleton” or “Are you frightened because of the dark?”
Show children that masks are just pretend and let them play with masks. This takes away the fear of the unknown and will help your child understand that they are not real. Also, let them choose costumes that are fun and not scary. Be understanding if your child chooses a costume but then changes their mind about wearing it.
Choose activities based on your child’s temperament. If you know that your child has a fear of the dark, go early while the sun is still up. If you think going to a stranger’s house is too overwhelming, let your child go to a couple of friends’ houses or stay home and pass out candy. Pick activities that will best suit your child. Don’t make them stay out longer than necessary, especially if they seem tired or stressed. Finally, choose kid-friendly decorations that are fun and not scary such as pumpkins or fall leaves.
With enough preparation, young children should be able to have a fun and non-fear-inducing Halloween. We hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday!