It’s Halloween weekend and I’m so incredibly excited! October is my favorite month (It helps that I have a birthday in it!) and I’ve always looked forward to carving pumpkins getting dressed up, and everything orange, black, and ghost decor!
But if I’m being honest, I was a little apprehensive at the thought of ghosts, witches, and monsters roaming our neighborhood this year because I knew my little one might flip out. And what toddler wouldn’t! Between scary clown sightings across the country and home-made candy that some give to trick-or-treaters, even I’m cautiously watching my back…. Regardless, I knew I could make this holiday fun for my almost-2yr-old with a little prep. Keep on reading for some tips on how to decrease your little one’s Halloween Anxiety!
1. Exposure: Exposure therapy is a way of treating anxiety by gradually “exposing” someone to the feared situation/thing without imminent danger. As such, I wanted to show my little one what Halloween was all about before he encountered a bloody monster while trick-or-treating. What better way than Halloween books! We’ve picked up a few that are not scary, introduce the concept of Halloween, and give names to the different ghouls we will see this weekend (and what a hit they’ve been!). Another way I’ve tried to expose my toddler has been pointing out decorations at stores and letting him touch them so he knows they aren’t real and can’t come after him (obviously you can use common sense here, I’ve shown my kid some witches, and ghost decor but skipped the terrifying serial killer masks I’ve seen). I’ve noticed that his fear of these things has narrowed down to blow-up lawn displays that we haven’t been able to approach because they’ve been on high shelves.
2. Don’t be pushy: It may make sense to force your little one to go up to a house in which a scary witch is handing out candy so they can see the chocolate-y reward at the end, but for little ones who don’t really know what is real and what isn’t this may cause more harm than good. Forcing them to experience something they fear when they aren’t ready has the potential of traumatizing them, especially for kids younger than 6ish for whom “pretend” is a concept they’re still figuring out. Instead, hold back on those things that your child clings to you if he sees. When you’re out trick-or-treating, scope the next house to see what scary surprises await them and skip it if you think your child will be too scared… there’s always next year to introduce werewolf homeowners or frightening porch displays. I haven’t pushed my little one to approach witch decorations that cackle and move at stores because he buries his face in my arm when we go near them, so we’ll try next year and see how he does then.
3. Skip the scary movies: Even movies geared toward a younger audience can have an element of conflict or fright, so I would recommend skipping Halloween movies unless you’ve seen them yourself and approved them, they’re age-appropriate, and your little one hasn’t had issues with nightmares in the past. Together with scary decorations, even fun-looking animation can make a lasting impression on your child’s imagination. Instead, try other Halloween… activities which leads to…
4. Family-friendly fun: there’s plenty to celebrate during Halloween that doesn’t involve monsters in the dark. While trick-or-treating may be a fun evening tradition, you don’t have to take your little ones when the moon is out if you think they’ll be too scared to enjoy it. There’s always community activities that cater to families and which may start earlier in the day when the scary monsters are still asleep 😉 If your community doesn’t offer these, get together with a few friends and set up stations throughout a park, or your home that kiddos can visit and trick-or-treat at. This holiday, you can also focus on visiting pumpkin patches, decorating the pumpkins you picked out, and baking cookies or other Halloween treats- we just finished decorating a chocolate/gingerbread house with bats, bones, and orange frosting and my boy was in heaven (and bonus, it was another way to expose him to friendly bats, skeletons, and ghosts!)
5. Costume fun: Costumes are half the scary fun of Halloween so it helps to talk to your kids about why people dress up and let them know that the cackling neighbor witch is just your sweet neighbor Doris underneath that pointy hat. Including them in the dressing up process helps to start these conversations! While this may not mean completely letting them choose their costume (sometimes YOU just want to pick your family’s costume theme, right? ;), let the kiddos try to find items in their closets that would work for your DIY costumes. Print out what they are going to dress up as so they have a visual and see if they can find that red vest or cowboy boots at home or at the store. This can help to introduce the notion that people will be dressing up and aren’t actually witches and vampires. When it comes time to get all ready, let them help you put your mask on, and take it off a few times, to continue to drive the point home that there’s people under all the makeup, masks, and body-suits. Let them practice putting that mask on themselves as well 🙂
I hope you guys have a safe and anxiety-free Halloween! let us know what your kiddos will be dressing up as on Monday!!