Ghosts and goblins and witches, oh my! Some kids can’t wait for Halloween. For others, Halloween isn’t fun but scarytoo scary. Professor Martin Antony, a leading expert on phobias and chair of Ryerson University’s psychology department, offers a few tips to parents to help ease their children's anxietiesand help them have some fun.
1. Tell your youngster what to expect.
Some children may be a little uneasy, or even fearful, of people dressed up as strange-looking creatures wandering through their neighborhood on Halloween asking for candy and treats. Make it predictable so your child won’t grow overly anxious. Take her to a costume store to see costumes she might encounter on Halloween: witch, devil, zombies, ghosts. To ease fear, have your child try on a few different costumes and take happy or funny photos. She can even dress up as a superhero saving the day.
2. Dial down the fear.
For some children (and adults!), half the fun on Halloween is being scared. Let your little one know that the trick-or-treaters are just pretending to act scary.
3. Stick with the familiar.
If your child is nervous about visiting strangers’ homes, visit familiar homes first, such as those of neighbors or friends. As your child becomes more comfortable, you can venture out to other homes in the neighborhood.
4. Turn off the dark.
If your child is nervous about going out after dark, consider trick or treating while there is still some light outside.
5. Travel in groups.
Your child may feel most comfortable going out with a small group of familiar people, such as parents, grandparents, siblings or friends.
6. Don't force the "fun."
Do your best to see the situation through your child’s eyes. He may be terrified. So be prepared to end the evening early. Although it’s often helpful to encourage children to confront the situations they fear, your encouragement should be positive and supportive. Forcing a screaming child to do something scary may make the fear worse.
7. Stay at home.
If your child is too afraid to go out for Halloween, consider having her dress up and do something fun at home. She may enjoy helping give out candy to trick-or-treaters who come to the door.
8. Keep your own fears in check.
Many parents are worried about safety, especially on Halloween. Be sure not to model excessive or unrealistic fears in front of your children.
Keep these pointers in mind and both you and your anxious child will have better peace of mind.
News Release, Ryerson University, Oct 18, 2012