Why is Halloween difficult for my child?

       Young children regard Halloween with a mixture of excitement and uneasiness. On one hand, the holiday means candy, dressing up, and a full day of fun with friends, but on the other hand, it means strange sights, frightening sounds, and darkness. The ambivalence that children feel about the two sides of Halloween carries over to most aspects of the holiday, including anticipation, picking out costumes, and trick-or-treating. And parents have ambivalent feelings too about the issues of safety and eating sweets.

       Before Halloween begins, some parents find that their child’s behavior changes. She may become more silly or aggressive or may whine more than usual, asking again and again, “When’s Halloween?” Much of the difficulty before the holiday centers around her desire to wear her costume. If she’s allowed to dress up in it before Halloween, she may have an easier time waiting for the enjoyable as well as the scary activities to begin. She also may feel less anxious if she can mark off the remaining days on a calendar or tear one piece off a paper chain for each day left before October 31.

       Some parents, as part of the pre-Halloween excitement, buy holiday books. Yet these books often have pictures and ideas that can frighten young children who believe that what they see in a book is real. If a Halloween story is too frightening, parents can change the words as they read, or try creating their own family picture books.

       The most exciting part of Halloween is usually picking out and wearing a costume. Children enjoy dressing up because they can experiment with fantasy and try out different roles: they can be television characters, superheroes, or grown-up workers. Children often change their minds about which costume to wear and sometimes argue with their parents about costume choices. In most cases, parents should let their child choose her own disguise.

       Some children are afraid of costumes, especially ones designed to be frightening. Since young children don’t fully understand the difference between reality and make-believe, they are not convinced that a scary ghost or a monster is only pretend. Even when they know the person under the disguise, they may respond to the costume with fear.

       Because of their fears, some children don’t want to dress up. This can make parents feel uneasy as they wonder why she doesn’t like Halloween. Parents in this situation should try to remember that all children are different – ones with older siblings may feel more comfortable in costumes, and outgoing children may enjoy dressing up more than reserved ones do. The age of a child makes a big difference, and older children, who are better able to understand that a real person is behind each mask, enjoy holiday costumes more.

       If your child is afraid of costumes, reassure her. You can say, “Costumes look scary, but they’re only pretend. People pretend to be ghosts just like you pretend you’re a fire fighter.” Sometimes such statements work, but often they don’t. If your child is afraid, and you’ve tried unsuccessfully to lessen her worries, don’t pressure her. She’ll grow out of her fears when she can understand what’s real and what’s not.

      Sometimes a child will wear a costume but not a mask. Masks partially cover a child’s eyes and face, and this may intensify her fears. Try using face makeup instead of a mask, or help your child make a mask that she can hold rather than wear. Such a mask will let her exert quick control, and may make her feel more comfortable.

      When Halloween night comes and most children’s costumes are on, the trick-or-treating begins. Your child may find this to be a difficult part of the holiday. It’s dark and there are many people outside, all looking like strangers, many looking very spooky. A child who finds costumes frightening may be overwhelmed by the sight of so many disguised trick-or-treaters.

        Your child may be afraid to trick-or-treat at other people’s homes. All year long you’ve told her not to talk to strangers or go to unfamiliar houses, yet on Halloween night it’s suddenly acceptable to go and ask for candy. A neighbor’s house may seem strange if your child has never been inside. And your child may be afraid either that people will answer their doors wearing scary costumes or that she’ll have to stand at a doorstep with other children dressed in frightening disguises.

       Your two- or three-year-old may hesitate to trick-or-treat because she’s never done it before. And if your child is shy, she may not want to talk to neighbors, even if you coach her. And many children don’t like to be focused on by people, especially strangers, who admire their costumes.

       There’s another side to trick-or-treat anxiety—your concerns about your child’s safety. Because of frightening news stories, many parents warn their children about unwrapped candy and spend time looking through their children’s bags for open or suspicious food. In order to avoid the possibility of unsafe candy, some parents decide to skip trick-or-treating altogether, instead trying community parties, costume parades, home parties, or Halloween craft treats.

       If you do allow trick-or-treating, you’ll have to decide what to do with all the candy. Some parents let their children eat a few pieces on Halloween night; others let them eat whatever they want. The days following the holiday can be difficult if your child doesn’t lose interest in her candy. If you choose eventually to throw the goodies out, let her know ahead of time so she can pick out a few special pieces to save. Through all of this it might help you to realize that, while Halloween can be an exciting time, it’s not always easy for the families of young children.

 Picture Credit : Google