What to Do When Your Child Is Frightened by Halloween

By Tara Weng, GalTime.com

Hands down Halloween is my favorite holiday. I try to dress up with the kids when I go trick-or-treating but some of my costume ideas (like the scary witch) were not always big hits when they were youngsters. I just thought you couldn't beat the idea of the holiday: costumes, spooky decorations, candy and, well, free candy. Having learned from my own experience(s), however, I get how the idea of people dressed up as ghouls and goblins and knocking on strangers' doors who have shrilling goblins on their walkways could potentially frighten the young psyche. So how should you tackle preparing your little ghosts when the holiday approaches?

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According to licensed family therapist Arlene Licata-Miller, it's important for parents to tune into their own feelings when it comes to how much their children can handle on Halloween. "Pay attention to how your children react when you initiate the conversation about Halloween so you know what aspects of the holiday scare them," Miller says. So rather than ignoring their fears, talk it out with them and try to reassure. "Try to describe Halloween as a fall celebration and draw the focus away from the scary aspects of the holiday. Halloween can be a fun time of year for kids, even without the witch factor," she concedes.

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A recent Penn State study concludes that many parents aren't even aware just how scary Halloween can seem to their kids. Part of the problem researchers say is that parents fail to explain (adequately) what is "real" and what isn't when it comes to the holiday. Licata-Miller says age-appropriate conversations are key. "Younger than six they just don't understand what is real and what isn't so that is too early to initiate a conversation," she explains. It might be best at that point to focus on the fun aspects of Halloween, the make-believe, the idea of dressing up as their favorite character and seeing their friends/peers do the same. The Penn study also pointed out that fear associated with Halloween was also interpreted as a fear of death by younger children.

As kids get older the conversation can get a lot easier as they themselves have already experienced certain situations that prepare them for the intention of the autumn celebration. The truth of the matter is you have to know your own child and what he/she is capable of dealing with.

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One Halloween during my daughter's toddler years she was dressed up and ready to go (or so I thought) as an adorable chicken. Well the chicken decided she would not leave the house. Rather than torturing her, I let her stay home with dad to pass out candy and took my son on an epic, entire town pursuit of candy. It was fun and I realized that she wasn't ready for the marathon trick-or-treating for which I had already groomed my son. Licata-Miller says just like most things you teach your children this lesson is no exception: "Trust the teaching methods you have in place already and utilize those. You, as the parent, know which teaching methods work with your children and which do not work," she reiterates.

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