The nights are closing in. The temperature is dropping, it’s that time of year – Halloween where the Púca has been replaced by Trick or ‘too much’ Treat.
I like this time of year. My two boys have fun and joy around dressing up scaring me and my family. Even with my boys I can see there is a thin line between something being fun and something being very scary.
For many children existing fears are magnified such as a fear of spiders, fear of the dark, fear of strangers, fear of large crowds.
Halloween objects, items and symbols often cause Halloween fears in children. Children may be afraid of Halloween masks. Bloody, gory, creepy costumes commonly scare children of all ages, particularly if they have had a bad experience in the past – such as a monster jumping out from behind a tree as they approach the door.
Most children enjoy carving pumpkins – scooping out the insides, decorating a silly face, lighting it up with a candle.
Other children are terrified by the unnatural, glowing, pumpkin-head faces. They may be excited to carve their own, but seeing the face all lit up at night may have the opposite effect.
Children’s fears around Halloween vary depending on the child and their past experiences.
Although they may seem irrational and unjustified to adults, the fears are very real to the child, and should not be dismissed as immature or silly.
Top Tips For Dealing with Childhood Halloween Fears
1. Find the right balance. Don’t force or pressure your child to do something they are fearful of because it may backfire on everyone and make things worse. Be mindful of finding that middle ground, that place of gentle encouragement somewhere between being too pushy or giving in by avoiding the issue.
2. Take baby steps. If you want your child to get over her fear of masks, gradually expose her to the concept. Begin by inviting her to draw and make her own mask. Next step is to wear it, take pictures of her with it on and off and then look at them together. Next - Look at a book of different masks people have made. Next - highlight the fact that she is able to put her mask on and take it off as she wishes. Then let her know she can make that same request of others. Be patient and don’t rush, even though it may take weeks or months to accomplish the steps.
3. Engage up neighbours and families. Prepare your families and friends in advance so the trick or treat is fun activity.
4. Have your own party. If you can’t be sure what will happen at a party your child is invited to - have your own. Plan a party with your child with Halloween items that feel safe to them, such as pumpkins.
5. Role-play and practice. Have a Halloween dress rehearsal that will allow your child to have a positive experience with this annual ritual. Make it their own by encouraging dress up, creating arts and crafts for decorations, identifying treats to hand out and what you have to do to get them.
This is called complimentary play and is great to help your child become less sensitive to the event.
6. Give your child control. It is human nature to feel safer when we think we have control over a situation. In addition to the two ideas directly above, provide ample opportunity for your child to have choices. Just remember to limit them to two, always making one an option you know they will accept and feel safe with. Leaving choices open ended will only work to create another dilemma.
Now, Penny For The Púca