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Turn Halloween Fears into Fun for Kids

By Dr. Charles Sophy


Remember black nights and massive buckets of candy? Remember scaring yourself silly just for fun? Remember choosing the best costume ever and how it felt to be that person for one whole night? Even if you don't participate, Halloween is a great time to be a kid. If your kids want a little Halloween fright here's how to make sure the fear they feel is fun. In this article, you'll discover what fear feels like to a kid, why supervised fear can be healthy, and how to help your kids face fears and have more fun.

Let's meet Max

Max is three years old and he's at the park with Mom and Dad. Across the great lawn there's a crowd of adults chatting outside the elementary school. Suddenly the big red school doors swing open and ghouls and goblins stream forth.

Mom and Dad swipe Max off the playground and carry him right toward the gruesome parade of ghouls and goblins. Max sees ghastly dragons, marauding pirate ghosts and disgusting squishy insects twice his size. He buries his head in Mom's chest but he can almost feel the freakish onslaught slither over him.

When he opens his eyes it's worse. Hideous trombone bleats, screeching trumpets, irksome piccolo tremolo and galumphing tuba belches chop the air.

"Isn't this fun?" says Mom.

A swirl of fiends floats past. Max says nothing and looks for Dad.

Where's Dad?

Max twists his head this way and that, but he can't see Dad anywhere. Where's Dad! Max tries to hold it back but suddenly a storm of teardrops streams down his face and he screams, "Daddy!"

Mom pulls Max close. She's carrying him away, but where's Dad? Max fears the worst. Has the horrid Halloween Parade swallowed up Dad forever?

"No, no, honey," says Mom. "I'm sorry. Daddy just had to go back to work. You must have missed his goodbye kiss."

Clearly, Max made more out of the Halloween Parade than Mom and Dad expected. Very young children have trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality. For Max, the weird creatures in the Halloween Parade were real... and very scary.

At home, Mom will talk to Max and give him hugs. She'll teach him about Halloween and assure him that the scary creatures were nice children playing dress up. Dad will call on the phone and later when he's home Mom and Dad will help Max understand his feelings. In this way, Max will learn to cope with surprises and get ready to take careful risks later in life.

Now let's take a look at some ways you can tiptoe through Halloween and turn fears into fun for kids.

Communication

Teach your children about Halloween, give them options, and let them choose what they want to experience. Also, if your child is wearing a costume they'll probably understand about dress up, if not, show them masks and costumes at a shop and make it clear that they're just for fun.

Confidence

It's a good idea to include your child in Halloween fun. A little doubt teaches them to overcome fears. However, don't push your child. Instead, focus on fun, monitor their reactions, and gently expose them to excitement. And give them control over the fun. A flashlight at night and permission to turn down a dare lets them regulates Halloween fright.

Awareness

Watch for signs of ongoing upset after a fright. Look for nervousness, a change in mood, clinging or withdrawal, bad dreams or other night-time problems. If you see a change, talk to your child. Identify what's troubling them and soothe their lingering fears. A little extra attention and support goes a long way. And focus on calm activities - especially before bedtime - until they overcome their jitters.



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Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the "Keep 'Em Off My Couch" blog, provides real simple answers for solving life's biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at drsophy.com.



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