With Halloween just around the corner, thoughts turn toward costumes, trick-or-treating, and other holiday related action. However, for some kids, Halloween could be more than just an opportunity to dress up and get candy. Something deeper may be going on. Mostly, unbeknownst to the parent, the holiday can arouse unexpected reactions, some of which may be related to fears. These fears can exist in children of all ages and, the ways in which children express those fears may vary widely.
According to psychologists, it is completely normal for children to develop childhood fears and it is part of their normal growth and development. As kids try to figure out the world around them, they are not quite sure of what’s real and what’s fantasy, thus their imagination can create far-fetched things, like monsters. Halloween is also gruelling for young kids to understand – why would anybody do something scary on purpose? Young children are also creatures of habit, so fear is the most convenient way of reacting to unpredictable and unexpected events.
It is important that parents understand and acknowledge the child’s anxiety about Halloween instead of ignoring it. They should deal with the child very patiently. They should try and find out the real cause for the child’s fear and then try to avoid those triggers.
Symptoms of fear of Halloween
Sometimes children find it difficult to express their fears about Halloween clearly and parents often dismiss them as irrational or silly. However, the fear of Halloween is a very real problem. There are many physical and psychological symptoms of Halloween which may vary from person to person depending on the level of fear. Some of these symptoms include:
- Panic attacks – nausea, dizziness, accelerated heart rate, rapid breathing etc
- Mere reference to Halloween could cause the child to feel terrified
- Child might have a full blown anxiety attack: screaming, trying to hide or run away, refusing to sleep alone, avoiding shops/houses which display Halloween stuff, refusing to go to school, avoiding trick-or-treating, fearing the dark etc.
Following tips can be helpful if your child is frightened by Halloween:
- Offer alternative activities to your children to distract them from the scary aspects of the holiday. This could include asking children to help in the Halloween preparations, such as carving the pumpkin or getting the candy ready. Instead of taking a child trick-or-treating, parents may want to have a child who is especially frightened assist with handing out candy, since kids feel safer and more secure in their own house.
- Sit with your children and encourage him/her to share some of their fears and acknowledge the fear as something which is valid. Use a calm voice and reassuring words to offer support and comfort to your kid. When children speak about their fears they learn to gain control over them.
- Show your child ways to deal effectively with fears, such as taking deep breaths or keeping a flashlight by the bed.
- Use a calm approach to help children confront fears in achievable steps, rather than asking them to avoid events that may contain anxious moments. Parents should not force children to face a fear they are not prepared to face as “they should not be afraid.”
You may consult a child therapist if:
- Your child is not responding to repeated reassurances
- If the fears are interrupting the child’s growth or daily activities
- If the child is past the age where is it developmentally normal to be afraid of something like darkness or monsters
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