If your child struggles with a fear of Halloween, you may feel disappointed or sad for them to miss out on some of the fun holiday activities. And you may be struggling with what to do when your child is afraid of Halloween. Do you just skip the holiday altogether? Or can you help them overcome their fears?
While we want to raise our kids to be confident, we also want to be sensitive to any struggles they may be facing. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to have a great Halloween while steering clear of anything scary!
The imagination of a child is a powerful thing.
Rest assured that it’s natural for kids to develop fears as they get older. Kids often go back and forth between seeming fearless and needlessly afraid. Many times their fearlessness comes from a place of not knowing, such as hanging over a railing without realizing they could get seriously hurt if they fell over. Then there are situations where their imagination gets the best of them and they become afraid of things like the dark, monsters under the bed, and yes, Halloween.
Sometimes it’s hard for kids to understand where their imagination ends and reality picks back up. While adults (or even older kids) can see a big green one-eyed monster on the TV and know that it’s just pretend, a young child may start worrying that those monsters are really out there. Even without seeing things on TV, it’s very likely that your child may develop a fear of some sort over time. Being afraid of the dark is a common fear that stems from an uneasiness about being away from their parents at night.
Halloween is meant to be scary.
Specifically, in terms of Halloween, it’s actually pretty understandable why a young child would find it scary! While there are plenty of age-appropriate ways to enjoy the holiday, there are also a lot more gruesome and spooky aspects to it as well. And unfortunately for our impressionable kiddos, the scarier stuff isn’t always easy to avoid.
Between costumes, lawn decorations, and people playing spooky tricks on each other, your child may see something that goes beyond their understanding and becomes a fear. It isn’t always realistic to keep them completely separated from all the holiday festivities, nor would many of us want to! Once they can work past the fear, there is a lot to love about Halloween (hint: candy). So, it’s worth the effort to find ways to enjoy Halloween in a way that suits their comfort level and helps them to work through these fears eventually.
How to Work Past Halloween Fears
Acknowledge the fear.
First and foremost, it’s important to acknowledge that a child’s fear is valid. While we may know there’s nothing to truly be afraid of, their reality at the moment is that Halloween is scary. Allow them to express their discomfort without being told that what they feel is wrong.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Explain the different sights they may see throughout the month and talk through their concerns together. Letting them talk it out will prepare them and give a sense of control over the situation.
Assure them that it’s all pretend.
Show them that all the Halloween decorations and costumes are just make-believe. If you feel they could handle it, take them to the store to touch and see that everything is fake. However, being surrounded by things they deem scary could overwhelm them, so only do this if you feel they would appreciate the “behind-the-scenes” look.
Skip the ghosts and ghouls.
Keep the decorations at your own home on the more lighthearted and silly side. I know that’s hard for some of us who like to go all out for the holiday, but it may have to be dialed back for a few years. Imagine being fearful of Halloween and then knowing there’s a grim reaper in your living room? For everyone’s sake, it’s probably best to keep those decorations stored away.
Don’t pressure them.
Making them go trick or treating despite their fears will just reinforce the negative feelings they associate with Halloween. Allow them the time to feel these normal emotions and work through them in their own time. Being afraid of Halloween won’t last forever, and you can try again next year.
Hopefully, over time your child will be able to make sense of fact versus fiction and be able to see Halloween for what it is: a fun night to dress up and get candy. In the meantime, there are so many other ways to have fun this month besides the standard trick or treating and haunted houses! Consider trying one or several of these ideas to ease your kid into enjoying the holiday festivities.
Kid-Friendly Halloween Options
Halloween at home.
Skip going out altogether and have Halloween fun at home with these fun printable games. You can have a scavenger hunt, play a trick or treat game, or go on a silly monster egg hunt. All are family-friendly and have the added comfort for your kiddo to be in their own home!
Look for community events in your area. Often shopping centers will have an opportunity for kids to come and collect candy during the day. Another popular option is to do a trunk or treat. You should be able to find a church in your area that is hosting one or some other type of Halloween alternative, and you can pretty much guarantee they won’t have anything scary!
Have a costume party with their friends during the day. It can get scary seeing strangers hidden behind masks, but if it’s someone they know, then it will be easier to see that it’s just pretend.
Give them a Halloween basket similar to an Easter basket. This way, they don’t miss out on all the goodies! You could even set up the scavenger hunt from above for them to spend time searching for it.
Have grandparents or other family members over for festive games and activities! Bobbing for apples, playing hide and seek, and carving pumpkins are all fun ways to enjoy the season without any of the scarier aspects.
Let them pass out candy.
Instead of going out trick or treating, stay home and hand out candy together. Most of the people coming will be cute kids in costumes, which could help them see it’s normal people dressed up. If you spot anyone dressed too scary or realistic, just send your kiddo to get themselves a caramel apple.
When you feel they’re up to it– give trick or treating a try! But keep an eye out for any houses that look a little more on the scary side so you can avoid them. I also suggest having a plan in place if you have multiple kids so that an adult can go home with the younger child if needed while the others continue trick or treating.
Working through childhood fears, including being afraid of Halloween, can be challenging for both the child experiencing it and the parents helping them past it. Let your kids know you are there to listen and support their feelings. But also continue reinforcing the differences between fantasy and reality. Once your kiddos are past their fears, you’ll have some unique Halloween memories to share, and they’ll know they can count on you for anything!