Keeping Halloween Safe and Fun
I discovered something interesting about H this past week. The girl has quite happily sat through the Shadowman scene in The Princess and the Frog. SPOILER ALERT – the part where he sends his demonic shadows to track down and catch the frogs. She is completely unphased by most of Disney’s villains and it’s not that she doesn’t understand what’s going on – the girl feels things deeply. She has to watch the furnace scene of Toy Story 3 with her eyes closed and holding my hand because that’s what the characters are doing. So what made my brave girl shriek and run to be closer to me? A swarm of bees in Winnie-the-Pooh. For real. I’m not sure if it was the large, dark sweeping motion of it. I’m scared of tarantulas not because I’m scared that they’ll bite me but the way that large spiders move completely freaks me out (even as I write this, I am finding it difficult to place my feet on the floor at the thought of a monstrous arachnid hurtling erratically over my bare skin). Sometimes what we think will be scary for a Little isn’t and what may seem innocuous to us may cause fear and anxiety. Which brings me to Halloween.
There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your Little has a fun Halloween experience. It’s important to remember that sometimes children’s fears do not always make sense to us. A fear of pirates may seem silly and irrational to an adult, but to a child, especially one who has only recently developed an imagination, the fear is very real. Approach Halloween with sensitivity, understanding, and empathy. You are your Little’s safe place – make sure that you provide a space that is free of judgement and dismissal. Instead of: “You’re scared of clowns? Don’t be so silly, they’re funny!” Try: “You’re scared of clowns? I get that. Is it their masks that make you scared? Sometimes it can be scary when we can’t see someone’s face.” Shaming a child for being frightened of something will not solve anything and will more likely result in your child hesitating to share their fears with you in the future. Recognising a fear and acknowledging why it might be scary won’t validate it, instead it will lessen it. Helping a child to identify why they might feel scared about something gives them a sense of control and it will also reassure them that you are on their side. This is especially important for our Littles who are unable to articulate their fears.
Get your little people used to Halloween decorations and costumes in advance. I’m not saying you should adopt a shock therapy approach here and chuck your unsuspecting toddler into a room of Pennywise lookalikes (the thought actually makes me break into a sweat). What I am saying is that on your trick-or-treating journey you and your tribe will encounter a number of variables over which you have very little control - house decorations and other people’s costumes. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, take a wander down the Halloween aisle and allow your Littles to explore and discuss. Talk about what they see, which decorations and costumes do they find most scary and the reasons for this. Alfred Hitchcock once said that “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it”. Safely exposing your littles to these things will help to dull the anticipation (in the healthiest way) and will give children more of a sense of control which is so very important in feeling safe.
Go over traffic rules and have a plan in place should your Little feel scared or unsafe. Talking over these things well in advance will help to quash any anxieties that may be adding to their fear. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for your little one to feel like they have a handle on things. Feeling out of control can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and unsafe. They will be facing a host of unknowns – strangers in costume, houses they’ve never been to before amongst others – but with the right preparation they will be able to take these on safe in the knowledge that you are there with them. Also, if you know that knocking on the door of a stranger will cause your little one to feel overwhelmed, then plan a route that only includes people that your child knows or arrange to go trick-or-treating with friends. Being surrounded with the familiar may give your Little the confidence to step out of their comfort zone. Even if your little one isn’t showing any signs of being scared, it’s important to check in with them. I’m not saying that you need to ask constantly, but it’s important to remember that children process things in different ways.
Let your Littles try on their Halloween costumes and get used to them. I cannot think of anything worse than trudging around dark streets dragging a three-year-old along who is complaining of an itch from a tag in her Moana outfit. This simple step will allow them (and you) to identify any potential irritations or issues which you can then resolve well before the actual night. Also, wear comfortable shoes.
Keep as much of their routine in place as possible. This may seem a strange one, but routine provides safety and comfort to children. If you are to have an enjoyable evening, you are going to have to plan it out carefully (pretty much 98% of daily parenting, am I right?). Now I’m not saying that everything should stay exactly as it is. Part of the excitement of trick-or-treating for a child is knowing that they’ll be out and about later than they normally would. Of course you need to be flexible but you also need to be reasonable – a two-year-old rocking a sugar high at half-eleven at night because things got a little out of hand does not fill me with joy. So, be sensible and fun (you can be both of these things at the same time…promise). If you normally have dinner at 6, then go trick-or-treating at 5. If you normally eat dinner at 5, then go trick-or-treating at 5 and push dinner to 6. If you have a bedtime routine, factor that into your plans. If you usually read 23 bedtime stories and sing 19 lullabies (who are you?!), then you will need to make sure that you have time to do all that (or as much of that as possible).
Have fun! Remember that Trick-or-Treating is supposed to be fun, so relax a little and enjoy making memories. With children, nothing ever goes completely to plan but a little preparation goes a long way.
Any questions or thoughts, just drop me a message on my instagram: @bornforblueskies.