Halloween is undoubtedly the spookiest time of the year. Witches, monsters, ghosts, and goblins are plastered throughout the town, in yards and on houses. People flock to the local theater to watch some of the most famous and chilling horror movies.
For most children, the highlight of every Halloween night is trick or treating. What’s not to love about piles of free Halloween candy? Children plan their costumes to the smallest detail, strategically visit the neighborhoods that have the best candy, and avoid the house that always gives out raisins.
Your child has everything ready and heads out with you and possibly a few siblings or friends. As you get to the first house, though, he suddenly does not want to go up to the door and get his treat.
He wants no part in the festivities, and now the candy is not as important as getting back home. You might be wondering what is wrong or what could have happened from your doorway to the house down the street.
Fears and Halloween go hand-in-hand. Your child may become scared when trick or treating, and a healthy amount of fear is okay. Luckily, there are a few ways you can help him overcome his fears of trick or treating.
Introduce Your Child to the Neighbors
One of the ways you can make trick or treating a little less daunting for your child is to familiarize her with your neighborhood before Halloween. Before the monsters and other Halloween decorations are put up around the neighborhood, you might want to introduce her to some of the neighbors as “real people.”
This is in no way saying that you should introduce her to everyone in the neighborhood. However, simply getting to know a few trusted neighbors could help her feel more comfortable around them.
When Halloween comes along and all of the scary decorations appear, you can take her to the houses of the neighbors you have introduced her to first. This will help her get into the rhythm of trick or treating, and you can remind her that behind the mask is the nice lady with the brown dog. Then, when you move on to unfamiliar houses, she will hopefully be more comfortable with trick or treating.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Fears of Trick or Treating
Something that we adults tend to do is tell our children that something “isn’t that scary.” We tell them that they are “ridiculous” for being scared by a cheap Halloween mask. We know that behind the wolf-man mask is just the guy who takes out his garbage every Tuesday morning in shorts and a t-shirt, no matter how cold it gets.
However, children simply see a wolf-man, and that can be very frightening. It is important that we not minimize or dismiss those fears, as they are very real to the child. And at that time he wants nothing more than to just run away and hide.
One thing that you can do to help your child work through his fears is to help him to rationalize them. Let your child know you recognize that Halloween can be a scary time, you know he is scared, and it is okay to be scared.
Help your child work through the fear by reminding him that he is okay and that the man behind the mask is simply the silly neighbor from down the street. Instead of simply dismissing your child’s feelings by insisting that “it’s not that scary,” you can instead talk with him about his fears. Hopefully, in time, you will be able to help him work through and overcome his fears of trick or treating.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Another way you can help your child overcome her fears is to keep the night positive. Remind her why she was so excited to go trick or treating. Tell her that everyone in the neighborhood is going to be so excited to see her in the costume that she worked so hard on.
Remind her of all of the Halloween candy she is going to get, and tell her this is the only time of the year when she is encouraged to get as much candy as possible.
Halloween is a dark and somber night, filled with witches, monsters, and ghosts, but you can help your child discover how much fun Halloween can be. By remaining positive about the night, your energy can be picked up by your child. Seeing you so happy and fearless can help ease her fears of trick or treating and Halloween.
Recognize When Your Child Has Had Enough
Sometimes, no matter what you do or try, your child wants nothing to do with Halloween and trick or treating. He is simply too scared, and there is nothing you can do to help him.
At this point, your child is in fight or flight mode, and there is no use in rationalizing his fears or trying to keep the night upbeat and positive. You don’t want your child fighting with you or your neighbor, so the best thing you can do is to remove him from the situation.
Whether you decide to walk around the neighborhood and not stop at houses or to take your child back home to calm down, it is important to know when he has had enough. Remember that trick or treating is for him, not for you.
Don’t force your child to participate in something just because you want him to. There will be other Halloweens. If this Halloween doesn’t work out and you have to cut the festivities short this year, that’s okay. Halloween is supposed to be fun and light-hearted, not a night that will leave scarring memories.
If you notice that your child is experiencing fears and anxieties that extend beyond those normally associated with Halloween, give us a call. One of our experienced therapists can provide you and your child with strategies to overcome those fears. Together, we can help your child have a more fun and spook-tacular Halloween in the years to come.