Do you know what your kids are going to be for Halloween? So far in our house we have a little black cat and a witch. Our son is still undecided. We are running out of time.
This year we are without a scaredy-cat. Last year, when our two year old was one, she didn’t want to wear a costume or go door-to-door. She was afraid of the spiders, the ghosts, the cobwebs, even the scarecrow. Not this year. She pets the spiders, says hello to the scarecrow, and “pat-pat’s” the ghosts like a newborn baby. She likes to wear her costume around the house and “purr.”
It is hard for young children to distinguish reality from fantasy and that can make Halloween really creepy for them. They are afraid of costumes, decorations and asking for candy from strangers.
There are a few things you can do to help prepare your kids for the Frightful Season so your family has a happier Halloween.
- Does your little one freak out when they see store displays and rubber spiders? Talk to them about how the decorations are part of the holiday. Just like colored eggs are part of Easter and Christmas Trees go with Christmas.
- Emphasis that none of it is real. Show them that it is all pretend. Pick the decorations up yourself so it is clear that the decoration is harmless. Then, invite your child to touch the decorations like you have.
- Reassure them that the decorations are temporary and that they will be taken down as soon as the holiday is over.
- If scary store displays still make them uncomfortable, consider leaving them at home while you run your errands.
- Be sure you encourage non-scary outfits. This can include characters they are familiar with. Does your little one have a favorite T.V. character, or book icon. Suggest they dress up as the people they pretend to be each day. This could even be an animal. When our son was little he was a different animal every week. Halloween made him uncomfortable, but when I asked him if he wanted to be a dog, his animal of the week, he was all for it.
- Let them dress up before the big night, this will help them be much more comfortable with their costume. Let them play make believe during the week leading up to Halloween. This will help them understand the difference between real and make believe and show them that they can play make believe and then quit when they want. By the time Halloween arrives, wearing their costume won’t be a big deal at all.
- Leave the masks at home. Usually small children don’t like masks, and they might not like things on their heads like wigs either. Forgo them. Put their costume on and then apply a few details with face paint. Don’t go overboard. Too much face paint could irritate their skin and bug them. I used to worry about face paint because I didn’t want it on their costumes. I had to get over it. They are kids and they are supposed to be having fun. Most face paints are washable anyway.
- Dress them up as themselves. If your little one is uncomfortable with costumes and face paint, have them pick out their favorite outfit, and dress up as themselves. Who better for them to be than them.
- If your little one is scared to go door to door, plan on only visiting a few houses that they are already familiar with. Your immediate neighbors that they say hi to everyday and a few others. Do you have relatives near by? Start at Grandma and Grandpa’s house so they get used to the process.
- Trick-or-treat while it is still light. Let your little one go door to door while they can still see. When it gets dark you can bring them home and let them help you answer the door to trick or treaters, or, if you are like me and don’t want to miss out, when it starts to get dark and we are visiting less familiar houses, we put our youngest in the stroller and let her start on a piece of her favorite candy or a snack I have brought for her. She doesn’t complain.
- Practice trick-or-treating with your little one. Have them ring their own door bell, answer and have them say trick-or-treat to you. Give them a little treat and allow them to practice more than once. Even a few times a day so they are comfortable. These practice sessions are also a good time to remind them to say thank you.
- If your child is shy or scared, go to the door with them. There is nothing wrong with accompanying them. You can even say trick-or-treat for them. It won’t take too many doors for them to understand how the process works and want to get involved. You can also have an older sibling take your youngster to the door. Be sure you have your camera ready. It is a really sweet picture to see your children holding hands as they walk to the door.
- Talk to your child about what is happening along the way. First we are going to do this, then we are going to do this. Point out how other kids are doing it so they see examples.
- If your child insists that they want to go home, take them. No need to force. The candy isn’t good for their teeth anyways.
As parents we can let our expectations for holidays override what might be best for our children. It is normal to want them to dress up, look great, and make wonderful memories. Deep down, them being comfortable and happy is more important. So, if your child is still afraid, respect their fears and let them wait until next year. Bundle them up in the stroller. Pack their favorite snacks and something to drink, and let them watch if they have older siblings. If they are the only reason you are going out, let them help you answer the door instead. They will love giving out candy and it will help them see how the process works from the safety of their own home. It won’t take long for the candy and excitement to get them out and up to the door next year.