Fright Night Or Fun Fest – How Do Your Kids Cope With Halloween?
Guest post by parenting coach Melissa Hood of The Parent Practice.
Do your kids love the trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, dressing up of Halloween? Or is it just a nightmare of of scary ghoulish faces?
Some children under the age of six find it difficult to know the difference between reality and fantasy, so for them Halloween truly is a living nightmare.
So how do you turn it from fright night to fun fest?
1. Find out what’s frightening them
Is it the costumes, the scary masks, the blood and gore? Make sure they know you’re listening and understanding – not dismissing their fears. Have empathy – they may be having a problem not being a problem. If you tell them to ‘stop being a baby’ and ‘face your fears’, they’ll feel misunderstood and learn it’s not right to be afraid. Over time and with the right support they’ll learn to deal with their fears and become more resilient.
2. Remind them it’s not real
Got a reluctant little one you have to take out with the older kids? Let him know you’ll be there right by his side, holding his hand and doing whatever he needs to feel safe. Remind him that there are real people under the costumes (and if it’s someone you know then name them).
3. Let them run the show
Your kids’ fears are very real so let them decide how much/little they want to participate. For children with sensory sensitivities the sounds, smells and feel of everything different can be overwhelming. Let them choose how to dress up. If he wants to be Batman or a Power Ranger then so be it. Equally if he wants to dress as a devil/monster for the night that’s OK too – it won’t threaten his belief systems about what is right and wrong. Research suggests that children who are able to dress in scary costumes are more likely to overcome their fears and be more resilient.
4. Plan for successful trick-or-treating
Go in a group – it’s much more fun and less scary for your children to be with their friends. Start early – well before dark. Get some friendly neighbours on board and visit them first. Only go to participating houses – decorations or a pumpkin in the window is a good indicator. Remind the kids to say thank you. Establish some rules ahead of time about how many sweets they’re allowed to eat on the night (and after) to avoid sugar overload. Trick-or-treating can be very exciting so factor in some time to wind down with bath and warm milky drink before bed (that’s the kids not you!).
5. Home style Halloween
If trick-or treating really isn’t a goer, then host a fancy dress party with Halloween food and games. The kids will feel safer and secure and by involving them with the cooking, pumpkin carving and house decorating they’ll feel successful and involved.
Halloween is here to stay. If you don’t want to be part of it make sure you explain your reasons for not joining in and organise something else fun instead so your kids don’t feel they’re missing out.
But if it gets the thumbs up from you then plan for success, enjoy your ‘guising’ and your pumpkin carving and wrap up warmly!
Melissa Hood is the Director of The Parent Practice, helping parents overcome everyday challenges in their family life. Based on London and established in 2004, The Parent Practice has helped thousands of families to find more peace and happiness. Melissa is passionate about teaching practical skills and strategies to parents via classes, workshops and the Parent Practice blog.
How do your kids feel about Halloween – love it or hate it? What do you do to make it a fun night for everyone? Share in the comments box below!
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