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How to Manage Your Child's Fears on Halloween

Little girl in scary halloween costume holding pumpkin; young girl dressed up as a witch for Halloween




Halloween doesn’t have to be scary:

Dr. Susan Bartell offers a Halloween How-To Guide for parents featuring tips on  how to manage racy costumes, sugar overload, and more.



Facing Fears

It’s not unusual for children to be afraid on Halloween. The scary costumes, walking in the dark, and glowing jack-o-lanterns can be creepy. To make the holiday more enjoyable, it’s important to respect your child’s fear without overindulging it.

•    Ask scary looking neighbors to take off their masks so your child can see the real person behind the costume.
•    Trick-or-treat before dark or stay on well-lit streets with a flashlight.
•    Only visit homes of people you know—the familiarity will be comforting.
•    Avoid scarily decorated homes.
•    Walk in a group; friends conquer fears!
•    Carve your own jack-o-lantern—this will make them seem less scary.
•    Don’t let your child miss out completely—giving in to fears helps them grow. Anticipatory anxiety is almost always worse than the actual experience (especially if you follow these steps).


Costume Clashes

Does your child want to dress as a much-too-sexy witch or a punk-rocker—carrying a real beer bottle and cigarettes? Have you heard “It’s what everyone is wearing and I’ll be a loser if you don’t let me wear it!”

Resist the urge to give in to your child’s pressure—it’s a ploy! There will be many other kids dressed age-appropriately. This is a battle worth fighting. When you allow your child to dress in a costume that sends the wrong message (no matter how fictitious or funny the costume seems), you blur the boundaries about what behavior is acceptable to you.


Supervision Success

Has your 10-year-old asked to trick-or-treat with friends with no parental supervision? What about your 12-year-old? How do you know the right time to allow this?

Thirteen years old is the youngest age at which I recommend allowing unsupervised trick or treating. Halloween can be dangerous for the inexperienced. Children traveling, even in a group, may not know how to negotiate drunk teens, running across the street safely in the dark, or unwelcome advances from homeowners or pets.

From 11-years old, allow a little independence by walking behind your group of kids to let them feel independent while still being there should they need you. Children under 11-years old should be fully supervised.


Sugar Shock

Your successful little trick-or-treater comes home with a huge pile of candy and begins digging in immediately.

“Stop! You can’t eat all that candy.”
“Why not?” responds your little angel. “It’s mine, and I want to eat it!”

What is the best way to manage a year’s supply of sweets and avoid weight gain, sugar overload, and a bad case of “it’s mine, I’ll do what I want!”?

•    Sort through the bag, throwing out unwrapped pieces and any candy your child doesn’t like.
•    Allow your child to eat several pieces of candy on Halloween night, then take the bag away.
•    Allow one or two small pieces each day (maximum) in place of your child’s regular ‘junk food’ snack. Candy should not replace a healthy snack, but can be a small addition to it.
•    After a few weeks, it is likely that the novelty will wear off and you will be able to gradually stop doling out Halloween candy as a snack.
•    Resist the urge to use it (or any food) as a reward for good behavior.

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Her latest book is “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask.” You can learn more about Dr. Bartell at

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Susan Bartell, Psy.D.


Susan Bartell, Psy.D., is a Long Island-based, nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Dr. Bartell is a media expert, frequently seen on CBS, ABC, FOX, and CNN. She is the author of seven books, including the highly-acclaimed The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter @drsusanbartell.

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