When your child is afraid of Halloween

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You can't wait to decorate the house for Halloween and take your child trick or treating. Your child, on the other hand, is afraid to step into the costume aisle at your local store.  What do you do? Here are tips to help even the most anxious child have a good time this Halloween.

by Dawn Villarreal, One Place for Special Needs


Halloween decoratingistock photo Halloween
For the time being, put all the scary decorations in cold storage. You want your child to enjoy the decorations, not be afraid in her own home. Decorate with cute and non-threatening Halloween decorations. Here are ideas for whimsical decorations and Halloween games.

Include your child in the decorating process by making Halloween crafts together. Applying tape, cutting and placement of objects are also good fine motor activities for your child.


Halloween costumes
Masks can be scary for many children. If your child resists the standard Halloween costume, consider making your own.  There are many great costume ideas that incorporate sweat pants/shirts or your child’s own clothes. This will offer him an extra sense of security in a potentially scary environment. These costumes can double for sensory issues too.

Create a costume that matches your child’s interests. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors scratch their heads about your son or daughter’s costume. It’s all about your child feeling good about what he is wearing. If your child wants to be a washing machine or railroad crossing, let him.  That’s what Halloween is all about—being what you want to be.


Halloween movies
Some children can weather the worst scary movies while others hide behind the couch at It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. If you are unsure about how your child will react to a particular movie, a wonderful site to bookmark is Commonsense Media. Here you can find recommended ages for movies along with very detailed info to make an informed decision. They also include parent and child reviews. Here is a link to their Halloween movies.


Halloween trick or treating
When it comes to trick or treating, follow your child’s lead. Your child may be adamant that she is not leaving the house. Don’t push the issue. Have her help you pass out the Halloween candy for the kids ringing your doorbell. This allows her to view and process the scary costumes from the safety of her own home.

Your child may show a desire to venture out but is still afraid to do the actual trick or treating. Move that safety bubble of the home out to the sidewalk by decorating a child wagon.  For instance, if your child is a pirate, turn your wagon or stroller into a pirate ship. This allows her to venture outside on her own terms.

Some children are afraid of trick or treating because they don’t understand the sequence of steps involved. Here is a social story on how to trick or treat.

Walk with your child to the first few doors.  Then try staying a few steps behind. Gradually increase the space between you and your child as she trick or treats.

The old saying, “safety in numbers” applies here too. Try and arrange a group of moms and neighbor friends to trick or treat together. I would caution you not leave your child unattended with their friends. You may have assigned a buddy, but the allure of candy makes children forget to stay in groups. If your child is slower, she will fall behind.

Finally, respect your child’s wishes when she wants to stop trick or treating. She may be tired or overwhelmed by all the festivities. If you have several children, arrange for this possibility ahead of time. A spouse or friend can pick up your child while you continue with your other children. Or allow a close friend to continue walking with your other children while you take your child home.


Halloween frights
For a few children, the thought of strangers in scary masks coming to your house is simply too frightening. We teach our children to be wary of strangers and here we are opening our door to everyone who comes by.

If that is the case for your child, you might consider not being home on Halloween night. Movie theaters will not be crowded this evening. Take your child to their favorite restaurant in costume. Also, many of the indoor water park themed hotels have special Halloween parties. Start your own tradition for Halloween that is special for your child.

Continue to build on your child’s successes with each Halloween. As your child matures, his ability to process and enjoy the holiday will increase.

More reading:

Halloween anxiety - Here are many resources on dealing with Halloween fears and alternatives to trick or treating

Wheelchair Halloween costumes - Here are over 200 costume ideas for kids who are wheelchair users.

About One Place for Special Needs

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