Halloween For Kids Should Be Fun!
This time of year the streets are sweeping with decorations: cobwebs and ghosts on doorsteps and witches and blood stains along sidewalks and storefront windows. We need to remember Halloween for kids can also be scary. For so many of us (in our memories and even up to the present) Halloween is a fun filled day of costumes and candy. But for our young children – our toddlers- it’s not always this fun day and it can actually be really frightening.
So what can you do to keep Halloween for kids, fun-filled and fear free?
Keep the treats and minimize the tricks:
1) Steer clear of masks:
I know it’s Halloween and costumes and dress up is a huge part of the fun. BUT it’s important to understand that masks can be terrifying especially for toddlers.
It can be really confusing when mommy or daddy wears the mask of another creature.
During this stage of development children are at the cusp of the development of a sense of self; of “me” and “not me”. At this age the toddler begins to understand (and be interested in) who they are and how they are separate from mom and from dad. Related to this, they also begin to know who is mom and who is dad. It can therefore be really confusing when mommy or daddy wears the mask of another creature. This is true even of friendly masks. The young child’s mind struggles to make sense of what it means that “mommy” is now a witch or a villain; or “daddy” is a superhero or a cartoon character. Yes, even dad as Mickey Mouse can be super scary. In a sense what all these masks do is they challenge your little ones sense of continuity, consistency and predictability associated with the sense of self and other (mom and dad) and overwhelm them. The “trick” becomes devoid of the “treat” and from your child’s perspective they begin to feel unsafe and it’s anything but fun.
In a sense what all these masks do is they challenge your little ones sense of continuity, consistency and predictability associated with the sense of self and other (mom and dad) and overwhelm them.
Instead- have fun with it but keep it simple for young children. Help them see it is still YOU just with a little costume that doesn’t change your visible identity completely. Keep it familiar. For example, wear a wig or ears or a hat, but let your face show with minimal confusing coverage.
2) Explain, Explain, Explain!
From way earlier than most parents believe – children are listening. They are constantly paying attention to cues on how to make sense of their environment and predict what’s to come. No matter what is happening in your family and in the world around you there is always a child-friendly way to communicate and to keep things true and real for your children.
Ask them what sounds like a fun costume for them for Halloween.
Halloween is the same. Share with your children that Halloween is a day when people dress up in consumes and that some people like to play with scary feelings and scary images like dragons and monsters in make believe. Share with them that they can dress up too if they’d like and that they can make believe and play with any costume they choose.
Ask them what sounds like a fun costume for them for Halloween. For toddlers it’s common to have desires to dress as superheroes and princesses and there’s no need to be that original- these are safe and fun choices and can help children feel confident- pretty/handsome- powerful/strong and all the more grown up!
Wishing you and your family a safe and fun filled Halloween for Kids!
Tanya works in private practice offering assessment, psychotherapy and consulting services. She also works at Boomerang Health, powered by Sick Kids where she is involved in psychotherapy for youth and families.