Halloween provides many opportunities for children to explore, experiment, express themselves, or… experience trauma.
Here are our family’s top five tips for preparing children for Halloween scares.
While it is important for each family to develop their own “Halloween Culture” (or Halloween alternative if you don’t celebrate), it is also important to acknowledge and prepare for the unsavoury aspects of Halloween that children may encounter outside of the home.
Objects and figures, such as spiders, are everywhere, some people don very scary or morbid outfits, and there may be spooky or fright-inducing situations created for Hallowe’en effect that your child is unable to emotionally navigate. Even if your family opts out of these practices (or Hallowe’en in general), its important to frame these occurences before they happen.
However, Hallowe’en is not without it’s benefits.
Benefits of Halloween for Kids:
- Hallowe’en is a wonderful opportunity to encourage children to face their fears
- A great time to learn & practice emotional readiness tools that allow children to feel safe in their exploration of “scary things” (For example, a child who deals with a fear of spiders can safely explore the toy versions and develop a biological and artistic appreciation for spiders through songs, art, and lessons.)
- A time to explore new identities & experience empathy for the chosen identity
- Plenty of learning opportunities – about culture, about our characters, and about those previously scary things
- Great stories, songs, and art activities!
Most toddlers and preschoolers should not be expected to enjoy the idea of ghosts and goblins, but you can (and should!) prepare as much as possible for the real situations they will encounter around Halloween. It can be tricky to strike a balance with empowering them with the right amount of knowledge, and scaring them with too much information.
The most important thing to do to prepare children for the scary bits of Halloween is to teach them how to identify feeling scared, and empower them to express that feeling. Reassure your child that if they are scared, it’s okay to say so, and you can leave a scary situation at any time.
Here are some ideas to prepare children for the scary bits of Hallowe’en:
1. Try on and Explore Costumes, or Make a Mask!
Allow children to understand that costumes are not real and can be pretty fun! Explain that some costumes are cute and silly, while some can be yucky and scary — but they are all pretend!
If possible, try to take your child somewhere to get their face painted or have a go at it yourself! You can do silly or cute adornments, and maybe even try a pretend “owie” or two so that your child knows that the fake injuries they will likely see can be faked.
2. Play with Slime
It’s unfortunate, but your child may be exposed to a bit of gore around Hallowe’en. Personally, I wouldn’t prepare children too much for it, and would avoid as much as possible, but if a child has had the opportunity to play with slime or eat a Gummy Worm “Dirt Pudding” they may be less afraid of any gross things they observe.
If you see gross Halloween things, you can try to remind your child about the connection to the previous sensory activity, and how things that look gross can actually be fun! Lack of familiarity can be the source of fear, but trying to relate your child to what they are seeing can help take the fear away.
3. Practice Trick or Treating
Trick or Treating can be pretty scary — approaching a stranger’s house in the dark and asking a potentially scary-looking neighbour for candy! Try to practice trick or treating at home, or with a (prepared) friend or neighbour. It will be less scary to try it out during the day.
Trunk or Treating is also a great tradition, where families get together, dress up the trunks of their cars, and allow the children to Trick or Treat at each vehicle. This can be a great practice or alternative to nighttime Trick or Treating.
4. Watch a Hallowe’en Movie
We really love The Wiggles’ Wiggly Hallowe’en! It’s a cute and fun video that touches on many Hallowe’en traditions and some unique spins on Hallowe’en themes, without being scary. Vampires love cranberry juice, zombies are just tired trick or treaters, and witches like sandwiches!
I also really love that it uses a variety of musical styles and the kids actually sing and dance while watching it — I’ve never seen a child sit through a Wiggles video.
5. Pack Some Bandages
And to tie back to Idea #1, if you have explored the idea of “fake owies” with your child, maybe think about including a box of cute bandages in your Hallowe’en gear.
I’ve explained to Ella that big kids with fake owies are joking, and that we can “get in on the joke” by offering them bandages for their fake owies. It takes away a bit of the fear, and allows her to focus on her part of the joke, rather that on how realistic the injuries look!
How will you be preparing your child for Hallowe’en?