Halloween may be a fun celebration for some, but it can also be scary for others—especially young children.
It may take some time to ease your child into enjoying Halloween the way you did. Denise Daniels, a parenting and child development expert, offers her tips to help kids of all ages feel not so scared of Halloween and have fun.
Explain what Halloween is.
Kids may see frightening decorations and feel scared—especially the ones that pop out at you. Daniels recommends focusing on the fall aspect of it and that people have parties and rake leaves around this time of the year. “If we explain it to kids and give them information ahead of time, it changes the focus and scariness of it,” Daniels says.
Daniels also suggests introducing kids to Halloween by reading them kids’ books or showing them family-friendly movies and shows, such as Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. You can also have your child hold onto scary masks so they know that people wear them and they are not real.
Have them express their fears.
Even if your child does not outwardly say that he is scared, there are some nonverbal cues to look out for. Maybe she will hide behind you, or he will look tense. Daniels advises that parents should get their kids to make faces to express emotions in the mirror. You can ask questions like, “What does your face look like when you’re scared? What does it look like when you’re happy?” to help them make that emotional connection.
Another suggestion is to have kids draw pictures of what they’re afraid of to show that it may not be as scary on paper as it might be in their heads, or listen to soothing music to calm down any anxiety. Daniels created a product called The Moodsters to help kids learn about their emotions. One of the books is called The Scary Sleepover and includes a talking flashlight with the Moodster characters to help kids not feel so scared of the dark. “Respect their feelings,” Daniels says. “Let them know you lovingly support them and help them express whatever it is that they’re afraid of.”
Plan your trick-or-treat route.
Tackling the entire neighborhood can be daunting for a child who may encounter spooky sights. Start out small and go to houses where you know the people. If you go earlier in the evening, too, you may not encounter as many older kids wearing scary costumes. You can even visit your community center, if they are offering fun activities if going door to door becomes overwhelming.
Prepare a script for teens.
Young kids are not the only ones that may get scared. Teens can sometimes feel nervous about going to haunted houses or corn mazes—especially if their friends might peer pressure them into going. Daniels suggests that parents should help their children rehearse a script to help them turn down their friends without outwardly saying they are too scared, if they feel that their friends might tease them. Some lines to use include, “I don’t feel like it, maybe next year,” or “I have other plans for the night.”
Enlist their help.
If you can get kids to realize that Halloween involves fun activities that the whole family can take part in, they’ll feel more at ease about it. You can all carve pumpkins, bake cookies or make other Halloween treats, and decorate the house with items your child picked out. You can even forego trick-or-treating and just spend the evening roasting marshmallows or reading books as a family. “If it’s frightening for them, don’t force it,” Daniels says.
Don’t pressure them.
Simply put: if they are not ready to celebrate Halloween, they’re not ready. Saying things like “You’re being a baby,” or “Go anyway, you’ll have fun,” may not be the best solution because the last thing kids want to do is feel like they’ve let down their parents. “Don’t give up if you’re disappointed in your child when you offer [to go trick-or-treating] and they are not ready,” Daniels says. “There’s always next year.”
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