The nights are closing in. The temperature is dropping it’s that time of year, Halloween. The Púca has been replaced by Trick and ‘too much’ Treat. I love this time of year, then again I have to say that I love the variation in our seasons, who wants to live in a mono-climate. Yesterday I was out in Lullymore Heritae Park, Co, Kildare where there was great Halloween Fun, with zombies chasing our Halloween train. They got the balance right between fear and fun as the zombies all ended up in a cage in the ended chased by a zombie pirate.
My two boys Oisín 7 and Darragh 5 years have fun and joy around dressing up scaring me and my family. Even with my boys I can see there is a thin line between something being fun and something being very scary.
For many children existing fears are magnified during Halloween such as a fear of spiders, fear of the dark, fear of strangers, fear of large crowds – are often magnified around and on Halloween night. There is a great paradox that for a whole year we teach ‘stranger danger’ and on Halloween night it’s a free for all.
Halloween objects, items and symbols many times cause Halloween fears in children. Children may be afraid of Halloween masks. Bloody, gory, creepy costumes commonly scare children of all ages, particularly if they have had a bad experience in the past – such as a monster jumping out from behind a tree as they approach the door.
Most children enjoy carving pumpkins – scooping out the insides, decorating a silly face, lighting it up with a candle. Other children are terrified by the unnatural, glowing, pumpkin-head faces. They may be excited to carve their own, but seeing the face all lit up at night may have the opposite effect.
Children’s fears around Halloween vary depending on the child and the child’s individual past experiences. Although they may seem irrational and unjustified to adults, the fears are very real to the child, and should not be dismissed as immaturity or silliness.
Top Tips For Dealing with Childhood Halloween Fears
- Find the right balance. Don’t force or pressure your child to do something they are fearful of because it may backfire on everyone and make things worse. Be mindful of finding that middle ground, that place of gentle encouragement somewhere between being too pushy or giving in by avoiding the issue.
- Take baby steps. If you want your child to get over her fear of masks, gradually expose them to the concept. Begin by inviting your child to draw and make their own mask. Next step – cut it out and wear it when ready. Next step -Take pictures of your child with it on and off and then look at them together. Next – Look at a book of different masks people have made. Next – Highlight the fact that they are able to put their mask on and take it off as they wish. Then let your child know they can make that same request of others. Be patient and don’t rush, even though it may take weeks to accomplish the steps above.
- Engage up neighbours and families. If yu child has particular sensitivities, prepare your families and friends in advance so the trick or treat is fun activity where play and .
- Have your own party. If you can’t be sure what will happen at a party your child is invited to – have your own. Plan a party with your child around Halloween items that feel safe to them, such as pumpkins.
- Role-play and practice. Have a Halloween dress rehearsal that will allow your child to have a positive experience with this annual ritual. Make it their own by encouraging dress up, creating arts and crafts for decorations, identifying treats to hand out and what you have to do to get them. This is called complimentary play and is a great way to help your child become less sensitive to the actual event.
- Give your child control. It is human nature to feel safer when we think we have control over a situation. In addition to the two ideas directly above, provide ample opportunity for your child to have choices. Just remember to limit them to two, always making one an option you know they will accept and feel safe with. Leaving choices open ended will only work to create another dilemma.
Finally remember the age and stage of your child. Placing ourselves in their shoes gives us an fairer insight into their world. Piaget the great Swiss psychologist identified that children are not just small adults but have particular cognitive developments as they age, such that in younger children the primitive /emotional part of our brain is more active than our logical part, hence why fear is prevalent not logic for children.
Now, its time for Penny For The Púca