For many children, only Christmas is more fun and exciting than Halloween. For others, who have Halloween phobias, Halloween is a time of fear and anxiety. Here are 10 tips for parents on how to deal with kids’ Halloween phobias.
- Identify your child’s specific Halloween phobia or phobias. Most children aren’t afraid of Halloween, but of spiders, bats or people in masks. Once you know what frightens your child, it will be easier to address his fears and/or to help him avoid those things that frighten him.
- Don’t wait until a few days before Halloween to deal with your child’s Halloween fears. Instead start the process weeks before the holiday to allow plenty of time to take steps to ease his concerns.
- Decide on the best approach to address your child’s fears. A more generalized Halloween phobia, such as fear of people in masks and costumes, may be more difficult to deal with at Halloween when people in costumes will be roaming your neighborhood in large numbers than one that is limited and specific such as a fear of spiders.
- Never aggressively force your child to confront a Halloween fear. Instead, talk to him about his fear and, if possible, try to expose him to what frightens him in a neutral, nonthreatening way for brief periods over time. Desensitizing a child gradually sometimes is very effective in lessening anxiety.
- Don’t let others who know about your child’s Halloween phobia purposely scare him because they think it is funny. Your child’s reaction when confronted with a scary mask or a hairy rubber spider may be amusing to other children or adults, but traumatizing him is cruel and counterproductive.
- Talk to your child’s teacher about his Halloween phobias so that she is prepared to deal with them in the classroom if necessary.
- Preview Halloween events, such as parties, that your child will be attending to determine how likely he is to be confronted by those things he fears. Tell him what to expect and let him decide if he wants to attend. If your child is very young, attend with him and leave if the event becomes too frightening for him. Only let your child participate in Halloween events appropriate for his age.
- Never make fun of your child’s Halloween phobias.
- Try not to be overly protective. If you react too quickly or too dramatically to those things that your child fears, it can exacerbate his anxiety. On the other hand, if you are calm and unafraid, it may help him to overcome his apprehension. Also, don’t rush to his side at the first sign of anxiety. Knowing you are nearby but not right by his side may help him learn to manage his fear on his own and to build his self confidence.
- If your child’s Halloween phobia is severe and long lasting and your efforts don’t seem to be easing his fear, consider getting professional help.
Lisa Fritscher, phobias.about.com, Halloween and Phobias – Parents’ Guide to Halloween and Phobias