Tips to Help Younger Kids Anxious about Halloween

For many, the scarier the better when it comes to celebrating Halloween. But for preschoolers or elementary age children, the decorations, costumes and often violent themes can be frightening and potentially disrupt sleep or cause social anxiety. That’s when parents or caregivers need to step up with a strategy to help alleviate fears.

“You definitely don’t want to minimize their anxiety or tell them not to be afraid,” said Leanna Duemler, LCSW, with Memorial Behavioral Health. “Instead get down on their level, listen and reassure. Empathize and don’t brush aside their big emotions. Instead, gently communicate the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. Be there for them.”

Here are some practical tips for how to help your child process and manage any Halloween-related fears:

  • Celebrate less scary activities of the season. Visit a pumpkin patch, carve a pumpkin, read children’s books about Halloween.
  • Choose more happy or neutral costumes for your child. Consider face painting instead of masks.
  • Schedule your trick or treating first thing before it gets dark so they can see other children’s costumes in daylight.
  • Avoid trick or treating at homes that target older kids with frightening décor that might startle or scare younger children.
  • Reassure them that it’s OK to feel scared – even grown-ups sometimes feel scared.
  • Respect their decision if they don’t want to participate in certain Halloween activities. Chances are they will be ready in another year or two.

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