Make Halloween More About Fun and Less About Fright

Halloween can be a stressful time for children of all ages. Child psychiatrist Dr. Vinay Saranga, founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry in Apex, North Carolina, has some suggestions for making the day less overwhelming and scary.

He suggests:

– Let your kids have fun: There are plenty of times that as parents, we have to really enforce the rules. Of course, you need to keep an eye on your children and make sure they are safe, but Halloween is a fun holiday and your children deserve to have a good time. This should be one night of the year where they really get to be kids, eat candy and get a little crazy.

– Desensitize your children before Halloween night: For younger children who are easily scared or appear nervous about Halloween, desensitize them ahead of time. When you eliminate the unknown and any surprises, children always do better. Show them pictures of people dressed up. Take them to a Halloween store in the daylight and show them decorations, masks and costumes. Explain to them what happens on Halloween. Show them movies where people are trick-or-treating.

– Keep it age appropriate: Halloween can be a little overwhelming and scary for some kids. Remember that what doesn’t bother your 13-year old may terrify your 4-year old. It’s best to keep things age appropriate and a great way to do that is to trick-or-treat with groups of friends based on age. As parents, you need to remind your older kids that they need to go easy when smaller children are around.

– Don’t push kids who aren’t into it: If your children don’t have a desire to go out trick-or-treating on Halloween, let them be. Some kids just don’t get into it and that’s perfectly acceptable. Parents can encourage alternatives to trick-or-treating. Maybe your children prefer to stay home and handout candy. Maybe they want to have a small party or get-together of close friends. Perhaps they just want to stay in and watch TV. Gauge your children’s level of interest and go with what makes them happy.

– Know when to intervene: Sometimes children don’t want to look scared in front of their friends for fear of being made fun of. Some children will hold it in and push themselves to experience more than they can handle. This can lead to nightmares, increased stress and anxiety. If you notice your child is struggling or appears scared, know when to call it a night.

– Have fun but be safe: Halloween is all about having fun, but never forget basic safety. Don’t ever enter someone’s home no matter how nice they seem. Always trick-or-treat in groups. If you have younger children, parents should always chaperone. Never eat any candy that is opened or appears tampered with. It’s dark so keep a flashlight, glowsticks and phone with you at all times.

– Talk it out: After the night is over and your children are finished trick-or-treating, talk to them. How are they feeling? Are they scared, nervous or upset? Do a quick emotional check before going to bed to make sure they are not shaken up or feeling disturbed in anyway. If something is bothering them, talk it out until they are feeling better.

– Fun without being disrespectful: Halloween is a time for your kids to have fun, but teach them to never be disrespectful or mock people with physical or mental health conditions, disabilities or other impairments.

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