Some of my favorite childhood memories come from Halloween. I love it all! Pumpkins, costumes and the thrill of trick-or-treating. I was so excited to have children – mainly for the excuse to go trick-or-treating again! Apparently it is frowned upon to go trick-or-treating without a kid in tow.
But the universe thought it would be hilarious to give me a child who was deathly afraid of my favorite holiday. With a fearful toddler – Halloween became more about pumpkin lattes and limited-time only pumpkin cookies at the local bakery. Halloween decorations freaked my child out and trick-or-treating was out of the question.
This shouldn’t have come as a shock to me – after all – as a child therapist I see kids every October for Halloween fears and aversions. But, not MY kids!
With determination to salvage the best holiday ever for parents everywhere – I offer-
5 ways to help with Halloween fears:
Don’t minimize your child’s fears.
It is helpful to let your child know that you understand their fears. Halloween can be a scary holiday. Toddlers are just making sense of their world. We might think decapitated monsters and bloody eye balls are festive – but to a toddler it is pure terror. Toddlers have a harder time differentiating between reality and fantasy – making Halloween a real life horror movie. Add masks and costumes to the mix and you’ve got a holiday full of nightmares – literally.
Start preparing your child for Halloween early.
It is impossible to keep your child in a bubble for the entire month of October. Instead of avoiding Halloween, help prepare your child for the holiday. Tell your child that during Halloween people find it fun to dress up like scary things. Let them know that the monsters and scary creatures they will see are not real. If you see scary decorations in the shops – demystify them by letting your child hold them and see how fake they feel.
Save the bloody zombies for another year.
I love decorating for Halloween. I have two huge cabinets full of Halloween decorations! So there is no way I would tell anyone not to decorate for Halloween! However, to help your child get acclimated to Halloween – keep your decorations festive and spook-free. Pumpkins, friendly witches and cute ghosts are all toddler-friendly decorations.
Don’t get too attached to those cute little costumes.
The stores are packed with aisle after aisle of the cutest toddler costumes. Your little one might plead with you to buy that $40 Frozen costume – only to refuse to wear it on Halloween. Toddlers are moody. What is exciting one week – is boring the next. There is nothing more frustrating than spending lots of money on a costume your child refuses to wear. To spare the frustration – keep your expectations for Halloween low. Be flexible with costumes – and have a back up from the dress up bin.
Make plans that are fun for your toddler – not necessarily you.
If your toddler has shown fear throughout the month of October – you might want to skip trick-or-treating this year and do a community event instead. Many communities and shopping centers do Halloween trick-or-treating events. These events are usually family friendly and your toddler is less likely to be frightened.
If you do brave the neighborhood, try and go with an extra adult or an older child. It is helpful if the older child approaches the door first. This helps weed out the neighbors with spirited teens hiding in the wings. Our neighborhood is full of people who love to scare the trick-or-treaters. My eleven year old loves it – but my littlest one finds it traumatizing.
Halloween is a fun, exciting holiday. Once your toddler moves through their fears – they will see this holiday for what it really is – free candy. And who can be scared of that!
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