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Pumpkin carvings for Halloween

As Halloween Nears, Help Children Face Fears

As Halloween approaches, parents should be aware that some Halloween costumes or decorations that seem just slightly scary or even cute to adults, may create real fears in young children. This is especially true of 3 to 5 year olds. Many childhood fears appear and then disappear as your child progresses. At ages 3 to 5, however, some common fears are darkness, masks, ghosts, and monsters—all Halloween favorites.

Whether or not you allow your preschooler to trick or treat (with adult supervision, of course), your child will likely encounter ghouls, goblins, witches, and monsters, if not at the front door then in decorations and advertising. A monster or witch that is obviously just a kid in a costume to you can seem all too real to your child. Don’t just ignore or dismiss these fears, but take positive steps to deal with them.

  • Acknowledge that the fear is real, even if the cause of the fear is not. But don’t take it so seriously that you reinforce the fear. If the cause of the fear is imaginary, think up an imaginary solution. If your child is afraid a monster will come to the door trick-or- treating, be a pretend monster tamer when you answer the door.
  • Assure your child that you are there to protect him or her from any real dangers.
  • Talk to your child about Halloween and costumes. If your child is unfamiliar with masks, wear one to show your child that it is just a fake face.
  • Scary is not funny to a little kid. So don’t set up frightening situations as a form of play.
  • Never use fear as a means to control. Don’t tell a child that if he doesn’t go to sleep the monster under the bed will come and get him.
  • Since bedtime and being alone can be frightening for a child, develop a comforting, nurturing bedtime routine. Help your child ease out of the excitement of the day and into a restful sleep by reading to her or sharing a thought.
  • Choose books that can help your child deal with fears, not create new ones. A children’s librarian may be able to suggest books that can help diffuse your child’s fears.
  • Use common sense about what your child can watch on TV or see in the movies. Remember that creatures or objects that are obviously fantasy to you may seem real to children.
  • Finally, remember that children believe what adults tell them and try to imitate what they see adults do. So speak the truth and act responsibly.

Last updated July 4, 2015