I love Halloween! I grew up with my mom making my costumes and our whole neighborhood got into the spirit with their decorations and it was so much fun! Now I am a 34-year-old mother to a 4-year-old son who is absolutely terrified of everything…especially Halloween! How can I help him overcome his fears and enjoy the holiday like I did as a child?
Elaine C., Falmouth
Dear Halloween lover,
Halloween can be such a fun holiday, but it also can be terrifying! I also grew up in a family that embraced the fun parts of Halloween, trick or treating, making costumes, Halloween carnivals, pumpkin carving, and all the non-scary parts of the day. But in today’s world, it is hard to shelter your child from the blood and the guts that have become commonplace in the celebration of Halloween. Hopefully, I can offer you a few ideas about how to make this fun day more tolerable for your son.
- Have reasonable expectations. Although you love Halloween, your son does not, and you must accept this. Tone down the celebration and focus on the fun.
- Acknowledge his feelings. He needs to know that it is OK to be scared of scary things. By labeling his emotions, he can better understand how he is feeling. You can explain that Halloween is a holiday where people dress up to be scary and they enjoy it, but it is ok that he does not enjoy it!
- De-mystify Halloween by showing him a mask and start with him putting it on and taking it off in a mirror. Then you put it on and take it off so that he understands it is pretend. Any Halloween decorations that light up or make noise, show him the on and off switch, so once again he can see that it is pretend, and he can control it.
- Do not avoid everything associated with Halloween. This is unrealistic and an unhealthy coping strategy. Your family will see Halloween decorations everywhere, from the grocery store to your neighbor’s lawn, so trying to shelter him from all of it is just not a realistic option. By giving him the words to acknowledge his feelings and by de-mystifying Halloween, he can work through his fear.
- Get him involved in making or buying his Halloween costume. If he loves Paw Patrol, let him pick out his favorite rescue pup costume. If you feel a Halloween store might be overwhelming for him, get him involved in making an easy costume. Websites like Pinterest have lots of great ideas.
- Research Halloween events in your neighborhood or town. A local school might have a Halloween carnival or fair that would be full of non-threatening, family fun activities.
- Ease your child into the fun. If trick or treating is too scary for him, let him put on his costume and help pass out candy at home. Also, in many communities, shopping centers do Halloween trick-or-treating events. These events are usually family friendly, and your child is less likely to be frightened.
- Involve his peers. If you decide to go trick or treating, organize a group of his friends or members of your family and go as a group. When he sees the fun that everyone is having, it will ease his anxiety.
- Get help if you’re still concerned. If you feel your child is excessively anxious and you may need more help, please seek the advice of your pediatrician so that he/she can refer you to a specialist, if needed.
I hope these suggestions are helpful and that Halloween can be a fun time for your entire family.