For the majority of kids, Halloween is a favorite holiday because it represents a time to dress up and be someone or something else--perhaps a super-hero like Superman or a mythical creature like a fairy. It might also bring joy because, for one night, they can get as much free candy as they can carry.
Despite the overwhelming number of children who look forward to what October 31st has to offer, there are kids who actually fear Halloween.
About the Fear of Halloween
There are many reasons why your child might fear Halloween—some could have social anxiety, and find the thought of hanging out with a large group of kids in costumes, or approaching a stranger’s house, frightening; other kids might have specific phobias, like a fear of clowns, monsters, or masks. Since Halloween is often a combination of all those things your child might fear, you may notice that your child’s anxiety and stress around the holiday escalates.
If your child gets terrified around the holiday, there are some things you can do to assuage those fears and relieve their angst.
Identify the Fear
Identifying exactly what is causing your child’s fear may not be easy, especially if he or she is not able to fully vocalize and express their trepidations. They might feel afraid, but not really know where it’s coming from or why it’s happening. To best serve your child, ask very specific questions, like:
- What are you afraid of?
- What about Halloween scares you?
- Is it the masks they’re wearing? If so, what about those masks scare you?
- What do you fear happening? Why?
Take Charge of Your Child's Fear
Once you’ve discovered what exactly sets your child off, you can gently explain the history behind the holiday and demystify the terror by breaking it down. For instance, if your child is afraid of masks, let him or her know that there is a real person like them behind it, and that their only purpose is to have harmless fun.
When out during Halloween, if you see someone with a mask and your child gets anxious, you might want to kindly ask the masked person to reveal themselves so that your child can see the earlier point. And if all else fails, you can take steps to remove your child from the things that scares him, or avoid putting him in the situation all together.
Manage Your Child's Surroundings
As a parent, you want to have control over your child’s surroundings. Many Halloween decorations and gizmos are designed to jump out at them unexpectedly. With the crowds, the loud and frightening decorations, and the anonymity of costumes, Halloween can be very chaotic. But there are some steps you can take to better manage your child's environment.
Tips for Trick-or-Treating:
- If you’re going out in your own neighborhood, have your child get to know your neighbors and get a sense of their costumes before Halloween night, so that they can put a name to the faces they will encounter during the holiday.
- If you plan to go to another neighborhood, consider going there in advance to check out what decorations are hung and what costumes you see. This is an opportunity to sit with your child and ease their fears before the festivities grow more chaotic.
- Have a plan for where to meet up if you get separated, and what your kids should to do if they encounter any problems.
- Remind your child that you guys can head home at any time. If he or she starts to feel uncomfortable with trick-or-treating, you can ditch the location and search for a more appropriate event (see below).
Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
- Host a party at your house. By bringing Halloween inside, you can control the environment, who has access, and even set up rules concerning costuming and dress codes.
- Go to a kid-friendly event or venue, such as a pizza parlor or movie theater, to participate in more regulated Halloween festivities.
- Stay in and have a family movie night with pizza, popcorn, and plenty of candy. Be sure to turn out the porch lights, or put a sign up if you are not planning to hand out candy to the neighborhood kids.