Halloween Fears: Scaring the Boo Out of Our Children was contributed by Anna Kaminsky of Psychological Resources for Parents.
Halloween is a favorite holiday for both children and adults; they enjoy the ability to dress up, trick or treat (as adults, we just take the candy from our child’s collection (with their permission, of course)) and enjoy a scare or two.
We spend time decorating our houses, carving pumpkins and picking out our costumes. We picture how precious our daughter will look as a ladybug or a princess or how adorable our son will look as Batman or a firefighter. We want our children to be excited about the costumes they will wear to school or even showcase as they walk in their Halloween parade.
Halloween for our young children should be a different experience from older children and adults.
As parents of young children, we want to celebrate Halloween age appropriately. Taking your 3-4-year-old to a haunted house with the advisory warning, “Not recommended for children” is not a good idea; you may have to calm your child down after the nightmares that experience may cause for the next week. Scary movies, frightening haunted houses, jumping out of the darkness and scaring someone are activities that you should save for your children until they are old enough to know the “reality” of these activities.
It is best to have a discussion (using age-appropriate language) to learn more about what your child thinks is “real” and what is “make believe” with regard to Halloween. Ask basic questions to further understand what they already know about Halloween. Since children are around other children (e.g. in daycare programs), they are bound to share their “knowledge” amongst each other. Once you are aware of what your child “knows”, you can better direct your own conversation.
Find out what scares them, so that you can dodge these things as much as possible.
It is imperative to explain that Halloween is a day where people dress up and get to be anything they want to be; strongly convey that children and adults play the part that fits their costumes (pirates, witches, zombies, etc.).
Children that are 3-4 years of age are incredibly imaginative; their perception is everything. With this in mind, one tip to avoid scaring the boo out of your child is to avoid masks. This is incredibly important advice for the parent; do not enter a room with a scary mask covering your face or point one out on the mannequin at the store, especially if it’s gory or too scary.
Young children experience difficulty in deciphering between what’s real and what’s fake (in movies and in life). If a parent enters a room with a scary mask on, his/her child may not know the parent is beneath the mask; a child may believe it’s actually a “monster”. It is even best to avoid having your child wear a full-coverage mask at such a young age. Most schools these days don’t even allow masks anyway, but even if they do, a mask may be too scary for other kids as well as pose danger to your child (restricts their vision).
It’s common for children to be scared of the dark, but even more so during Halloween. If you are going trick or treating and project that your child may express a fear of the darkness, bring a flashlight. If your child does communicate a fear of the dark, comfort your child by stating that the light will take away the darkness and it will allow them to see far away.
To prevent this from happening altogether, try to go trick or treating as early as possible, ideally before it gets dark out. When it begins to get darker, older children and others may begin their mischief; you don’t want your child to be exposed to that. Additionally, if a home is set up to be a haunted house (dark, very decorated and noisy), try not to draw attention to it and just keep walking. If your child voices a desire to visit that particular house, do it in stride. Walk up to the house, then go into the first part of the “haunted house”, all the while observing your child’s reactions. If your child gets scared, just turn around, leave and proceed to the next house.
You don’t want to scare your child out of Halloween.
Having conversations with your child about Halloween will be most beneficial. Never invalidate their feelings, concerns, anxiety or fear by telling them not to be afraid of what they see, hear or know about Halloween; encourage them to articulate the aforementioned and utilize this time to reinforce what’s real and what’s make believe.
The only part of Halloween that should upset your child is not getting more candy than his/her sibling or best friend.
Author Bio: Anna Kaminsky is a blogger, a mother of two boys, and an aspiring child psychologist. She is doing PhD in Psychology at the University of Toronto and works as an intern at the Richmond Hill Psychology Center, where she maintains “Psychological Resources for Parents” blog and helps with psycho-educational assessments and play therapy. You can follow Anna on Twitter at @AnnaKaminsky1.