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Give This a Try: Managing the Halloween Scaries With Your Kids

Halloween time means fun family-themed costumes, carving pumpkins, and all of the candy-eating that comes with it. But it can also mean decorations, costumes, and masks that can really frighten some children.

Let’s be real, Halloween can be scary for kids especially when we consider the dark side of it all (haunted houses, ghosts, masks, blood, gore). While there’s not much we can do to keep the frightening stuff totally out of our kids’ view, we have some ideas, based on child psychology, for how to support your child throughout the Halloween experience.

1: Prepare and practice for Halloween

Children thrive when they’re prepared for an event. Begin talking about the expectations surrounding Halloween in advance. Practice over time helps children develop a sense of mastery and confidence. It also exposes them to whatever’s scaring them in a gradual way that helps desensitize them to the fear they may be feeling.

For example, you can talk through the events associated with the holiday (going to pick out pumpkins, making fall baked goods, picking out a costume, haunted houses, corn mazes, and going trick or treating). Then focus on the aspects of Halloween that may be particularly overwhelming for your child. For example, you could walk through their trick-or-treat route, talk about how to ask for candy, and practice saying out loud “trick-or-treat!”

2: Help your child identify what scares them

Ask your children what specifically scares them about Halloween. If they are unsure, help them identify it to build awareness surrounding their fears. Is it the masks, scarier type of costume (werewolf, zombies, ghosts, etcetera), or having to go door-to-door facing individuals they don’t know well? Once you have identified their fear, then you can ask them what they feel in association with that fear and help them label the feelings (e.g., scared, angry, sad, confused, etc.).

3: Validate their emotional experience

When your child comes to you with their fears and anxieties surrounding Halloween, validate their emotional experience by letting them know that you understand their fears, anxieties, and worries and that they make sense. Try not to minimize their emotional experience by saying “oh there’s nothing to worry about.” Instead try soothing your child by saying, “I can see why you would feel scared during Halloween, the masks can look really scary. They even scare me sometimes!”

4: Provide them with a coping tool

Once they can identify their fear and label the emotion, provide them with a tool they can use at the moment to help soothe their fears. Help them develop a mantra like, “I am safe and loved.”

Some other great coping tools are taking deep belly breaths, squeezing their hands tightly in a fist, and then releasing them while imagining fear leaving their body, bringing along a comfort item and touching it for reassurance, or visualizing a peaceful and calming place. All of these are great tools for kids (and adults!) and are most effective when practiced before the anxiety-provoking stimuli.

5: Help them differentiate reality from pretend

Remind them that below the costumes are real people, just like us, and that the costume-wearing is for the fun of it. Understandably dressing up as something scary is not enjoyable for a lot of people which is why so many varieties of costumes exist. Help them create a narrative that costumes are just pretend and that there are real humans beneath them. Help them understand that just like they enjoy dressing up as a cat, princess, dinosaur, unicorn etcetera, other people may enjoy dressing up as a scarier option (witch, werewolf, zombie, etcetera). This can also be a good opportunity to teach them that different people find different things fun and that their feelings are still valid.

6: Gather

Consider gathering a group of familiar individuals (e.g., friends, family) to go trick-or-treating with your child. Children often feel more empowered when they are surrounded by adults and children they trust. This can also be great memory-building time that will help your child associate Halloween with laughter, fun, family, and friends-a change from all of the scary.

7: Keep household Halloween decor as neutral as possible

Halloween decorations can be scary. When helping your child navigate Halloween-related anxiety, keep your decor as festively neutral as possible (pumpkins, fall wreaths). Skip the zombie statues, RIP tombstones, and anything ghoulish or bloody.  

Remember that it’s likely that your child will outgrow their Halloween-related anxiety. Know that by meeting them where they’re at now, acknowledging that their emotions are valid, and helping them navigate the holiday in a way that feels good to them, you’ll help build internal confidence as well as a sense of safety and trust.

Give This a Try: Managing the Halloween Scaries With Your Kids

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Give This a Try: Managing the Halloween Scaries With Your Kids

Check out these expert tips on how to help your child manage and get past their Halloween-induced fears

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Key takeaways

1

Halloween is tons of fun, but sometimes all the spooky movies and decorations can leave our kiddos feeling scared

2

Family Thrive Expert Alicia Samaniego Wuth, PsyD offers her tips on how parents can help their children manage and work past their fears

3

Remember that Halloween-related anxiety will pass!

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Halloween time means fun family-themed costumes, carving pumpkins, and all of the candy-eating that comes with it. But it can also mean decorations, costumes, and masks that can really frighten some children.

Let’s be real, Halloween can be scary for kids especially when we consider the dark side of it all (haunted houses, ghosts, masks, blood, gore). While there’s not much we can do to keep the frightening stuff totally out of our kids’ view, we have some ideas, based on child psychology, for how to support your child throughout the Halloween experience.

1: Prepare and practice for Halloween

Children thrive when they’re prepared for an event. Begin talking about the expectations surrounding Halloween in advance. Practice over time helps children develop a sense of mastery and confidence. It also exposes them to whatever’s scaring them in a gradual way that helps desensitize them to the fear they may be feeling.

For example, you can talk through the events associated with the holiday (going to pick out pumpkins, making fall baked goods, picking out a costume, haunted houses, corn mazes, and going trick or treating). Then focus on the aspects of Halloween that may be particularly overwhelming for your child. For example, you could walk through their trick-or-treat route, talk about how to ask for candy, and practice saying out loud “trick-or-treat!”

2: Help your child identify what scares them

Ask your children what specifically scares them about Halloween. If they are unsure, help them identify it to build awareness surrounding their fears. Is it the masks, scarier type of costume (werewolf, zombies, ghosts, etcetera), or having to go door-to-door facing individuals they don’t know well? Once you have identified their fear, then you can ask them what they feel in association with that fear and help them label the feelings (e.g., scared, angry, sad, confused, etc.).

3: Validate their emotional experience

When your child comes to you with their fears and anxieties surrounding Halloween, validate their emotional experience by letting them know that you understand their fears, anxieties, and worries and that they make sense. Try not to minimize their emotional experience by saying “oh there’s nothing to worry about.” Instead try soothing your child by saying, “I can see why you would feel scared during Halloween, the masks can look really scary. They even scare me sometimes!”

4: Provide them with a coping tool

Once they can identify their fear and label the emotion, provide them with a tool they can use at the moment to help soothe their fears. Help them develop a mantra like, “I am safe and loved.”

Some other great coping tools are taking deep belly breaths, squeezing their hands tightly in a fist, and then releasing them while imagining fear leaving their body, bringing along a comfort item and touching it for reassurance, or visualizing a peaceful and calming place. All of these are great tools for kids (and adults!) and are most effective when practiced before the anxiety-provoking stimuli.

5: Help them differentiate reality from pretend

Remind them that below the costumes are real people, just like us, and that the costume-wearing is for the fun of it. Understandably dressing up as something scary is not enjoyable for a lot of people which is why so many varieties of costumes exist. Help them create a narrative that costumes are just pretend and that there are real humans beneath them. Help them understand that just like they enjoy dressing up as a cat, princess, dinosaur, unicorn etcetera, other people may enjoy dressing up as a scarier option (witch, werewolf, zombie, etcetera). This can also be a good opportunity to teach them that different people find different things fun and that their feelings are still valid.

6: Gather

Consider gathering a group of familiar individuals (e.g., friends, family) to go trick-or-treating with your child. Children often feel more empowered when they are surrounded by adults and children they trust. This can also be great memory-building time that will help your child associate Halloween with laughter, fun, family, and friends-a change from all of the scary.

7: Keep household Halloween decor as neutral as possible

Halloween decorations can be scary. When helping your child navigate Halloween-related anxiety, keep your decor as festively neutral as possible (pumpkins, fall wreaths). Skip the zombie statues, RIP tombstones, and anything ghoulish or bloody.  

Remember that it’s likely that your child will outgrow their Halloween-related anxiety. Know that by meeting them where they’re at now, acknowledging that their emotions are valid, and helping them navigate the holiday in a way that feels good to them, you’ll help build internal confidence as well as a sense of safety and trust.

Halloween time means fun family-themed costumes, carving pumpkins, and all of the candy-eating that comes with it. But it can also mean decorations, costumes, and masks that can really frighten some children.

Let’s be real, Halloween can be scary for kids especially when we consider the dark side of it all (haunted houses, ghosts, masks, blood, gore). While there’s not much we can do to keep the frightening stuff totally out of our kids’ view, we have some ideas, based on child psychology, for how to support your child throughout the Halloween experience.

1: Prepare and practice for Halloween

Children thrive when they’re prepared for an event. Begin talking about the expectations surrounding Halloween in advance. Practice over time helps children develop a sense of mastery and confidence. It also exposes them to whatever’s scaring them in a gradual way that helps desensitize them to the fear they may be feeling.

For example, you can talk through the events associated with the holiday (going to pick out pumpkins, making fall baked goods, picking out a costume, haunted houses, corn mazes, and going trick or treating). Then focus on the aspects of Halloween that may be particularly overwhelming for your child. For example, you could walk through their trick-or-treat route, talk about how to ask for candy, and practice saying out loud “trick-or-treat!”

2: Help your child identify what scares them

Ask your children what specifically scares them about Halloween. If they are unsure, help them identify it to build awareness surrounding their fears. Is it the masks, scarier type of costume (werewolf, zombies, ghosts, etcetera), or having to go door-to-door facing individuals they don’t know well? Once you have identified their fear, then you can ask them what they feel in association with that fear and help them label the feelings (e.g., scared, angry, sad, confused, etc.).

3: Validate their emotional experience

When your child comes to you with their fears and anxieties surrounding Halloween, validate their emotional experience by letting them know that you understand their fears, anxieties, and worries and that they make sense. Try not to minimize their emotional experience by saying “oh there’s nothing to worry about.” Instead try soothing your child by saying, “I can see why you would feel scared during Halloween, the masks can look really scary. They even scare me sometimes!”

4: Provide them with a coping tool

Once they can identify their fear and label the emotion, provide them with a tool they can use at the moment to help soothe their fears. Help them develop a mantra like, “I am safe and loved.”

Some other great coping tools are taking deep belly breaths, squeezing their hands tightly in a fist, and then releasing them while imagining fear leaving their body, bringing along a comfort item and touching it for reassurance, or visualizing a peaceful and calming place. All of these are great tools for kids (and adults!) and are most effective when practiced before the anxiety-provoking stimuli.

5: Help them differentiate reality from pretend

Remind them that below the costumes are real people, just like us, and that the costume-wearing is for the fun of it. Understandably dressing up as something scary is not enjoyable for a lot of people which is why so many varieties of costumes exist. Help them create a narrative that costumes are just pretend and that there are real humans beneath them. Help them understand that just like they enjoy dressing up as a cat, princess, dinosaur, unicorn etcetera, other people may enjoy dressing up as a scarier option (witch, werewolf, zombie, etcetera). This can also be a good opportunity to teach them that different people find different things fun and that their feelings are still valid.

6: Gather

Consider gathering a group of familiar individuals (e.g., friends, family) to go trick-or-treating with your child. Children often feel more empowered when they are surrounded by adults and children they trust. This can also be great memory-building time that will help your child associate Halloween with laughter, fun, family, and friends-a change from all of the scary.

7: Keep household Halloween decor as neutral as possible

Halloween decorations can be scary. When helping your child navigate Halloween-related anxiety, keep your decor as festively neutral as possible (pumpkins, fall wreaths). Skip the zombie statues, RIP tombstones, and anything ghoulish or bloody.  

Remember that it’s likely that your child will outgrow their Halloween-related anxiety. Know that by meeting them where they’re at now, acknowledging that their emotions are valid, and helping them navigate the holiday in a way that feels good to them, you’ll help build internal confidence as well as a sense of safety and trust.

Halloween time means fun family-themed costumes, carving pumpkins, and all of the candy-eating that comes with it. But it can also mean decorations, costumes, and masks that can really frighten some children.

Let’s be real, Halloween can be scary for kids especially when we consider the dark side of it all (haunted houses, ghosts, masks, blood, gore). While there’s not much we can do to keep the frightening stuff totally out of our kids’ view, we have some ideas, based on child psychology, for how to support your child throughout the Halloween experience.

1: Prepare and practice for Halloween

Children thrive when they’re prepared for an event. Begin talking about the expectations surrounding Halloween in advance. Practice over time helps children develop a sense of mastery and confidence. It also exposes them to whatever’s scaring them in a gradual way that helps desensitize them to the fear they may be feeling.

For example, you can talk through the events associated with the holiday (going to pick out pumpkins, making fall baked goods, picking out a costume, haunted houses, corn mazes, and going trick or treating). Then focus on the aspects of Halloween that may be particularly overwhelming for your child. For example, you could walk through their trick-or-treat route, talk about how to ask for candy, and practice saying out loud “trick-or-treat!”

2: Help your child identify what scares them

Ask your children what specifically scares them about Halloween. If they are unsure, help them identify it to build awareness surrounding their fears. Is it the masks, scarier type of costume (werewolf, zombies, ghosts, etcetera), or having to go door-to-door facing individuals they don’t know well? Once you have identified their fear, then you can ask them what they feel in association with that fear and help them label the feelings (e.g., scared, angry, sad, confused, etc.).

3: Validate their emotional experience

When your child comes to you with their fears and anxieties surrounding Halloween, validate their emotional experience by letting them know that you understand their fears, anxieties, and worries and that they make sense. Try not to minimize their emotional experience by saying “oh there’s nothing to worry about.” Instead try soothing your child by saying, “I can see why you would feel scared during Halloween, the masks can look really scary. They even scare me sometimes!”

4: Provide them with a coping tool

Once they can identify their fear and label the emotion, provide them with a tool they can use at the moment to help soothe their fears. Help them develop a mantra like, “I am safe and loved.”

Some other great coping tools are taking deep belly breaths, squeezing their hands tightly in a fist, and then releasing them while imagining fear leaving their body, bringing along a comfort item and touching it for reassurance, or visualizing a peaceful and calming place. All of these are great tools for kids (and adults!) and are most effective when practiced before the anxiety-provoking stimuli.

5: Help them differentiate reality from pretend

Remind them that below the costumes are real people, just like us, and that the costume-wearing is for the fun of it. Understandably dressing up as something scary is not enjoyable for a lot of people which is why so many varieties of costumes exist. Help them create a narrative that costumes are just pretend and that there are real humans beneath them. Help them understand that just like they enjoy dressing up as a cat, princess, dinosaur, unicorn etcetera, other people may enjoy dressing up as a scarier option (witch, werewolf, zombie, etcetera). This can also be a good opportunity to teach them that different people find different things fun and that their feelings are still valid.

6: Gather

Consider gathering a group of familiar individuals (e.g., friends, family) to go trick-or-treating with your child. Children often feel more empowered when they are surrounded by adults and children they trust. This can also be great memory-building time that will help your child associate Halloween with laughter, fun, family, and friends-a change from all of the scary.

7: Keep household Halloween decor as neutral as possible

Halloween decorations can be scary. When helping your child navigate Halloween-related anxiety, keep your decor as festively neutral as possible (pumpkins, fall wreaths). Skip the zombie statues, RIP tombstones, and anything ghoulish or bloody.  

Remember that it’s likely that your child will outgrow their Halloween-related anxiety. Know that by meeting them where they’re at now, acknowledging that their emotions are valid, and helping them navigate the holiday in a way that feels good to them, you’ll help build internal confidence as well as a sense of safety and trust.

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