Halloween: Don’t scare your children!

To scare: to fill, especially suddenly, with fear or terror; frighten; alarm.

Halloween changes the way people dress and look.

Don’t scare your children!  Costumes on children and other adults can be scary to the young child.  “Children under 5 have problems distinguishing reality and fantasy in media.   It doesn’t much matter what the adult says (‘it’s not real’) because it feels real to the child,” writes Darcia Navaez, Ph.D in Psychology Today.  We as parents need to remember that a child processes events differently than we do as adults.  While Halloween costumes and make-up may be a fun diversion for us, they can be scary to a child.

One Halloween when my son was three, I went in to a fabric store.  The owner was dressed in devilish red, wearing a headband with horns, a red tail and carrying a red trident.

My son looked at her for a while and then asked, “Why are you dressed like a cow?”  Yes, children process things differently than adults!

Some of the costumes around today are scary!  Skeletons, witches, demons, make-up with blood dripping from make-believe wounds, clowns or other fantasy or violent characters are scary to young children.  Darcia Navaez, PhD also notes, “Joanne Cantor has documented how seeing the wrong movie (e.g., teen horror movie) at the wrong time (under 12) can scar a person for years (e.g., making them afraid of the dark, needing to sleep with a light on).  Don’t let that happen with your child!

Young lady dressed up as Minnie Mouse

Make  sure that you talk through this day with your child.  It is not usual to  see people dressed in costumes all day.  All the places a child may go on Halloween will look different: a trip to the bank, grocery store, school or early childhood learning center will be familiar places but all the adults and children will look out of place in their costumes.  Discuss the day with your child so they are prepared.

Halloween changes a child’s routine.

While Halloween can lead to lots of fun with costumes, candy and visiting their friends around the neighborhood or at the local fire department, this change in routine can be scary and overwhelming for young children.

Young children need parents to provide order.  They appreciate a regular schedule, expectations of sameness, predictable patterns to their day, etc.   Halloween changes their day!

And who of us has not experienced a child meltdown when the schedule changed?  It doesn’t even matter if the schedule change may be to the child’s advantage or to a more desirable activity.  The change itself may lead to tears, resistance, or a tantrum.

Talk to your children about the different things they will do and see on Halloween.  Lisa Medoff writes, “When young children know what to expect, they become more confident in both themselves and the world around them. They know they will not be confronted with unfamiliar tasks for which they are unprepared.” (Routines: Why they matter and how to get started at education.com)  A good discussion with your children will help them process the variation in their day.

Enjoy the costumes and fun of Halloween.  But don’t scare your children. Talk to them about the day and have fun!

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