Take the scary out of Halloween

Your Child and Teen
Take the scary out of Halloween

Halloween can be scary for young children.

Ghosts and goblins, skeletons and scary masks, even jack ’o lanterns…these can all be terrifying to a young child. It’s important to remember that young children often have trouble telling the difference between what’s real and what’s make believe. Those Halloween monsters can seem very, very lifelike – and once you combine the costumes and the masks with the dark and the noise and the general unfamiliarity of the holiday, Halloween can become not just NOT FUN, but downright frightening.

It’s important not to push your child to experience Halloween in a way that is beyond his comfort level. Haunted houses, especially the more realistic ones, can be very frightening, even for adults!

Parents should also keep an eye out for their child’s reaction to masks. Young children may not realize that a mask is hiding the real, friendly face of someone they know. Your child also may be uncomfortable with the sight of someone taking off a mask.

Here are some additional suggestions on how to help make Halloween fun (and safe) for all:

  • A few days before the big holiday, assess your child’s comfort level. Is she excited or apprehensive? Happily looking forward or nervous? Talk to your child and watch her body language – and make sure you don’t minimize any fears she may have. Try to find out what is bothering her and figure out a way around it – for example, if she is worried about the dark, try to trick or treat a little early.
  • Let your child decide how he wants to celebrate – he may be happier handing out candy at your door to neighborhood trick or treaters.
  • Look into daytime or evening celebrations at places within your community – shopping malls, grocery stores, the zoo.
  • Bake Halloween treats and decorate a pumpkin together.
  • Watch a Halloween movie or show that is age-appropriate. No horror movies!
  • Be careful about your own costume – seeing their parents dressed up as witches or skeletons can be very frightening for children.
  • Some signs that your child may be anxious: complaints about stomachaches or headaches, trouble falling asleep or nightmares, behavioral changes like acting out or being clingy, sudden development of a nervous habit, refusing to go to school.
  • And for a safe Halloween:
    • Make sure your child can see through his mask and won’t trip on his costume.
    • Accompany your young child. Older children should have a planned route that parents know and a curfew.
    • Tell your children not to eat any candy before you look at it. And don’t eat too much at once!

Have a safe and happy Halloween.