Category — Halloween
Are your children excited about all the Halloween trick – or- treating? Do they adore dressing up? Or are they fearful at the thought of venturing out in the dark night and encountering all the scary ghoulish faces. Many children under the age of 6 have difficulty divorcing reality from fantasy so for many of our younger children this truly can be a night of horrors.
In addition many of us as parents are confused about what Halloween represents as a festival and may worry about the pagan or Christian origins of All Hallows Eve being taken over for commercial purposes. Relax – for the children this day is about dressing up, being with friends and the age long tradition of collecting sweeties and telling jokes! (The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. On Hallowmas (November 1) the poor would go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day, (November 2).)
Here are some top tips to make Halloween a success:
Talk to your children about what may be frightening them – is it the costumes; the scary masks; the symbols or images of blood and gore? Make sure they get that you are listening and understanding and not treating their fears as if they are silly or babyish. Once a child feels heard and his feelings validated he is in a far better place to look for solutions.
- If you need to take a young reluctant child along with older ones let him know you will support him, holding his hand or whatever else he needs to feel safe. Keep reminding him that there are real people under the costumes and if you know who then name them.
- The costumes sold on the high street can be very scary so let your child decide what he is going to dress up as. If he wants to be Batman or a Power Ranger then let him be…….. Equally if he is happy to dress as a devil/monster for the night then again let him do so and be assured this does not mean all his belief systems about what is right and wrong will be threatened. Research indicates that children who are able to dress in scary costumes are more likely to overcome their fears and be more resilient.
- If your child is nervous about trick-or-treating, then set up for success by enlisting the help of a few friendly neighbours who know you are going to visit. Start well before dark and ensure you have some of your children’s friends by your side to help them get into the festive spirit.
- If trick-or treating is really out of the question, then invite people to the house for a Fancy dress party with Halloween food and games. Children feel safer and secure in their own home and by involving them with Pumpkin carving and house decorating they will feel successful and involved.
Ultimately the key lies in listening to your child’s fears – they are very real and let him decide how much/little he wants to participate. Be aware that for children with sensory sensitivities the sounds, smells and feel of everything different may send them spinning. So have empathy – they may be HAVING a problem not BEING a problem and if we tell him to “grow up and stop being a baby” and “face his fears” they will feel very misunderstood and learn it is not right to be afraid. Over time your child will learn with the right support to deal with his anxieties and fears and become more resilient.
Halloween is here to stay – commercially it becomes bigger each year. You may choose not to take part but if you do, explain to your children what are your values that prevent you from joining in and empathise if they would like to do what many of their friends are doing. If you do choose to take part to make it a success requires a little planning.
Your child may not be fearful at all and look forward to trick or treating and getting sweets. You may need to remind them (by asking the children) about what to say at the door of participating neighbours (only call on those households who are participating-decorations are a good indicator) and to say thank you. To avoid sugar overdosing you may also need to establish some rules ahead of time about how many sweets can be consumed on the night and thereafter. The whole experience can be very exciting so be prepared for it to take time to wind down. Start the whole evening with plenty of time to do the trick or treating round and get home in time for a wind down and maybe a hot milky drink before bed.
Enjoy your ‘guising’ and ‘souling’ and your pumpkin carving and wrap up warmly!
31/10/2011 1 Comment