strategies to make halloween fun for fearful kids

Brought to you by Ambi Pur
Who doesn’t love Halloween? The glowing Jack-O-Lanterns, the mounds of free candy and the dazzling array of costumes are magical for kids and parents alike. But for young children who are afraid of the dark, the menacing costumes, or the boisterous crowds, Halloween can sometimes be too scary. Diane Reynolds, a family therapist in Los Angeles, California for 20 years, helps parents learn effective responses to common childhood worries and offers suggestions for a happy Halloween.

Afraid of the dark

Many preschoolers are afraid of the dark so, "Let the fun begin before it gets too dark," Reynolds says.
• Begin trick-or-treating early, when it's still light outside
• Carry flashlights
• Have your child wear a headlamp or glow stick
"All children need a sense of control over their situation,'' she continues. Parents can create a secure base from which to explore by walking with their child, holding hands and limiting the route to just a block or two to keep the experience short and sweet.

Fear of monsters

If children are afraid of monsters, the fright masks and gory characters that roam the night may look too real. "What allows anyone to face new experiences is feeling safe and secure in themselves," Reynolds says. You can help your child do this by:
• Encouraging your older siblings to include the younger child in the "transforming" process by asking him to help put on makeup or clothes
• Asking a trusted neighbor who always dresses like a ghoul, to show your child what the mask looks like in the daylight, so it won't seem so scary
• Bypassing any "Haunted Houses" with characters that are too realistic or that might want to chase or frighten your child

Build confidence at home

Introducing Halloween at home is a good way to build security before the excitement of the Big Night. Instill confidence in "small steps."
• Invite your child to help decorate the yard with things that he or she has picked out
• Have friends over to carve pumpkins or make decorations the weekend before

Reynolds offers other ways to "build up for Halloween night." Many preschools have their own Halloween parties or costume parades. This is a great way to "rehearse" for the real thing. Walking around your neighborhood and looking at the decorations on lawns and porches in the daylight will also help your child familiarize themselves with the images of witches, ghosts and goblins.

For the shy ones

"The most important thing is not to shame a child for being shy," Reynolds says. If crowds make your son uncomfortable, go early before the rush or join a small group of friends and walk together. "You could include an outgoing child who will model gregarious behavior." She also encourages parents not too push young children who feel overwhelmed. "Keep it low-key."

Tune into your kid

"Recognize your child's temperament," she says. Children will let you know when they're ready for new experiences, be it entering a haunted house or knocking on a strange door. "If they're pushed too fast and too hard that can set them back."

For parents, making the experience fit your child—and not the other way around—is the key to both easing normal childhood fears and enjoying an exciting and sometimes spooky Halloween night.

That and all the mounds of candy.


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