Your child and Halloween – how to manage anxiety
Halloween has become an ever present event in the UK calendar and for most is a fun and exciting time with costumes and treats 👻
For some however, it can be full of anxiety, fright and uncertainty.
So as we embrace decorating our houses with ghoulish sights, mentions of monsters and scary boos, how do our children cope with these scenes and how can we help those prone to anxiety to manage. We explore some practical tips to help ahead of halloween.
Don’t avoid it
It may feel easier to avoid the situation all-together, and try to ignore the cause of fear or anxiety in hopes you can protect your child. However, as we know when we try to avoid the hard things, it doesn’t make them go away and you are not letting your child deal with the realities of life. As difficult as it may be, the best thing to do to help your child navigate pain and discomfort in life is to be there with them and guide them through, especially in the early years as this lets them develop safe and healthy coping mechanisms. So don’t cancel halloween in hopes you can shelter them, instead find ways to talk, listen and have fun.
Listen to your child, validate their feelings
Never shame a child about their fears or belittle how they are feeling. If your child tells you that they are scared of going trick-or-treating, let them know you hear what they are saying. Repeat the fears back and let them know you understand. It’s perfectly normal to feel scared as Halloween is meant to be scary after all! Re-assure them as real as everything may seem, the costumes, the decorations, the noises etc they are just pretend and they are safe. It may help to demonstrate in this situation, so showing them a mask or a prop to help them understand they are just ‘dressing up’.
Find a fun signal or code word
This is especially useful if you are taking your child trick-or-treating, or you are having a party, somewhere where it can all become busy and overwhelming. With your child or children, come up with a silly, funny ‘code word’ or a secret hand signal only you know that they can use if they start to feel scared or uncomfortable. Let them know this means you can take a break, go somewhere quiet or just have a hug, whatever makes them feel better in that moment.
You may find the game itself helps to take their mind off whatever made them feel uneasy or simply knowing you are there and they are safe is a huge comfort.
Allow the anxiety
Remember, the aim is not to take the anxiety away from your child, the aim is to help them get through the feelings. Suggesting you have confidence in their ability to handle halloween, by listening, showing them they are safe, allowing questions and concentrating on the games, fun food and the use of a ‘code word’, you are creating a supportive and safe space for them to develop healthy ways to manage anxiety and fear. This is about building the crucial foundation on which your child will take through to adulthood.
Our anxieties may be reduced if we do our own dress rehearsal of how to handle this potentially frightening experience. A great way to reduce the feelings of anxiety is to try to desensitise them ahead of time. This could be showing them costumes in a shop, looking at decorations and props in daylight, what are they made out of? How do they feel? Show them (appropriate) photos of people dressed up and how people act making spooky noises or jumping out to say boo. Explain to them what happens on Halloween and why.
Practice what you will do and say in advance, so if your child’s anxiety is triggered, you can respond with consideration instead of reacting impulsively.
Talk it through
After all the fun, and it’s time for bed, talk to them. How are they feeling? Are they anxious, scared or worried? If something is bothering them, talk it out until they are feeling better. Revisit what happened and what they saw the next day too.
Share with us on social media how you got on with your child over Halloween!