As Halloween approaches, the focus is often on candy and dressing up. Parents seek ways to celebrate without sugar overload, fret over how much indulgence to allow and get creative with their kids on costume ideas. One aspect of Halloween that can be easy to overlook is the fine line between healthy fear (that feels fun) and overwhelming fear (that feels terrifying).
For each child, that line may be different. And for any specific child, the line may vary. How can a parent tell? Fear has a very real impact on a child’s neurological system, and taking children’s fears seriously can go a long way in building communication and preventing behavior problems.
Watch your child’s face as you approach scary decorations or masked figures. Remind your child about what is real and what is make believe. Reflect your child’s fear, and offer options: “It looks like you’re afraid of that costume and you don’t want us to go any closer to that one. We can walk over this way.”
Children who find the holiday theme upsetting may be able to participate in less direct ways, such as handing out candy or prizes, instead of dressing up or going to events with large crowds. Remember not to take it personally if you and your child don’t seem in synch on Halloween fun. Relaxation is the antidote to fear, and who couldn’t use a more relaxed approach to life? Keeping your stress level manageable facilitates closer communication with your child and enables you both to find those moments of holiday fun to savor.