Halloween is fast approaching and can be a fun and exciting time, but for some kids it can be very scary. Lots of kids have fears about monsters under their bed or in their closet, and sometimes the shadows at night make frightening-looking creatures that seem alive. With Halloween nearby, there’s a possibility that your youngster may see someone dressed up as a ghost, goblin or zombie. What can you do when the Ghostbusters’ voicemail is full or hasn’t been set up yet? Below are some tips on how to ease your youngsters’ fears and have fun this Halloween.
The 411 on fears
- Fear can be a good thing. It keeps us healthy by alerting us of dangers and keeping us safe. Without fear we might make poor choices.
- It’s normal for toddlers and preschoolers to have nightmares and fears. Youngsters struggle with differentiating between what is real and imagined. School-age children are able to distinguish fact from fiction, but may have difficulty grasping the probability of an occurrence. Therefore keeping television and social media coverage of traumatic events to a minimum is helpful.
- Your youngsters’ fears are real to them even though they may sound silly to you or not make any sense. It’s important to validate their fears and concerns.
- Talking only to your youngster about their fears will not do the trick. Instead, you have to talk and treat. Kids’ fears can begin to subside when parents do something about those pesky monsters.
- What if it’s more than fear? Some kids have anxiety, a mental illness that can involve both physical and emotional responses that are disproportionate to the situation. A key determinant if psychological intervention is needed is if there’s any impairment in functioning, such as resistance in going to school or inability to complete routine activities that previously weren’t difficult.
Spells and monster potion
- Some parents swear by Monster Spray. Decorate an empty spray bottle and fill it with water. Mist your child’s room at night to protect from monsters. Another favorite is the Monster Swatter. Take a fly swatter and decorate it. At nighttime, swat the air a few times to make sure the room is empty. Kids can help with the decoration which can be empowering!
- Create a spell with your child and say each night like “Hocus pocus, zoom zoom boom, no monsters allowed in David’s Room!”
- Tie fairy dust (salt or sugar in a plastic bag) to the door knob. Monsters are allergic to fairy dust!
- Have your child draw happy pictures and put them all over his room to create a protective monster and all scary things barrier.
- Pretend to give your child’s favorite stuffed animal magical powers that protects the entire bedroom and closet when your child snuggles close with that stuffed animal.
- Pretend to tie a magic invisible cape around your child that protects them against all scary things.
- Get a trash bag and pretend to put the monsters and all scary things in the trash bag while talking back to the monsters. “Get out monsters, you are not allowed in the house.” Then take the trash bag and place it outside the house. Your youngster can help too.
- Use your pets! Sometimes it may help telling your child that your dog or cat helps protect the house at night and won’t let any monsters inside.
- Read kid-friendly stories about monsters or watch a movie like Monsters, Inc. This will help prepare your child for Halloween and see that not all monsters are scary or bad.
- Ask your child what will help make the monsters go away and then oblige. Sometimes your child will know what will work and you won’t have to spin your wheels so much of thinking what to do.
- Using your religious affiliation may help as well. Reciting favorite scriptures or passages that empower and instill calmness can comfort your child.
Remember that your child’s fears are real and how you handle them is important. Helping your child to manage their fears can be a time to bond, teach great skills, be silly, and have fun all at the same time.
– Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, PsyD, ABPP, Pediatric Psychologist with Beaumont Children’s Hospital Divisions of Hematology/Oncology & Gastroenterology