Halloween is right around the corner and while some kids love the spooky vibe, others don’t respond so well to the parts that may strike fear. Certified Child Life Specialist and our newest Piper + Enza contributor Katie Taylor shares some tips on supporting your little ones through the scary parts of the holiday.
Just like we pass down physical traits to our children, we also pass down personality characteristics. Just like my husband, my daughter is laid back and up for anything. Just like me, my son is a cautious rule follower.
So when my son started to show glimpses of my fearful personality, which includes despising scary movies (we have yet to get past the first 10 minutes of a Disney movie without tears. He’s 6, but in his defense, parents usually die during the introductory scene!), panics during thunderstorms and despises people dressed up as characters, I knew we weren’t going to be a family that embraced the scary side of Halloween.
As a child life specialist, I’m used to supporting children through all stages of fear, anxiety and trauma, and while Halloween doesn’t fall under the realm of “traumatic,” I reframe my professional skills to help my son cope with the dark side of Halloween.
Here are some ways we address the “scary” parts of Halloween:
I use empathy to validate his fears.
Rather than stating, “witches aren’t real” or “Bloody Mary doesn’t exist” (yes, I’ve had to address both of these), I lean into the fact that these characters are, in fact, terrifying. Green women with warts flying through the sky on a broom? Yep, that sounds weird to me, too. Bloody Mary is a story that’s been told for generations and it was created to feel scary to people. I don’t like these stories either!
We skip the parts that don’t serve us.
We’ve got a simple strategy for scary things: we use our hands to over our eyes during scary parts of movies, we politely leave conversations that include stories that scare us and we skip creepy houses that are intended to frighten us.
We reinforce the fun.
Halloween is not ALL scary. It’s dressing up in costumes, pumpkin carving and CANDY. We lean into the fun parts of the holiday that bring us laughter and fun.
So, while you won’t catch my son and I in a haunted house any time soon, you’ll find us enjoying ourselves on the hayride, drinking apple cider.
Katie Taylor is certified child life specialist, podcast host and CEO + Founder Child Life On Call, and a Piper+Enza expert contributor.