Halloween can be scary for kids

We all have some worries about our kids going out trick-or-treating on Hal­loween. It’s dark and not all of our streets are well-lit, so it’s possible there could be a run-in with a car.

And as we know too well, not all drivers are careful, and some are stupid enough to use electronic devices while they drive.

Those fears are reasonable.

But so are the fears that children have. Not all kids; some just love the living heck out of Halloween, and some even love being a little scared. Still, for some, Halloween can be a tad traumatic.

Here is some information from the web­site of Bradley Hospital, affiliated with Brown University:

"Childhood fears may be especially powerful this time of year, when scary Halloween decorations, masks and cos­tumes are everywhere.

"According to experts at Bradley Hospi­tal, young children have a growing – and vivid – imagination and are often unable to differentiate between what’s real and what’s pretend. That’s why they may sud­denly become fearful of objects or events that they did not seem to mind only months earlier or are very frightened by trick-or-treaters dressed up in scary costumes."

Some suggestions from the hospital’s website include:

"For children who are frightened by Halloween … offer alternative activities to distract from the scary aspects of the holiday (such as) asking your child to help in the Halloween preparations, such as carving the pumpkin or getting the candy ready. Rather than taking a child trick-or-treating, parents may want to have a child who is especially fearful assist with handing out candy, since kids feel safer and more secure in their own home.’

Plus:

  • Allow your child to share some of his or her fears and acknowledge the fear as something that is valid. The fear, however unfounded, is causing real anxiety. Of­fer support and comfort, and use a calm voice and reassuring words.
  • Encourage your child to talk about his or her fears so he or she can learn to gain control over the fear. Show your child ways to cope with fears, such as taking deep breaths or keeping a flashlight by the bed.
  • It is important for parents to model a calm approach to confronting fears in achievable steps, rather than allowing children to avoid all of life’s moments that contain anxiety. Alternatively, it is important not to force children to face a fear they are not prepared to face.

For most older people, Halloween brings back memories of good times and lots of what we then thought were "goodies," but times have changed. In the 1950s, kids had to work at being scared. Sure, there were scary movies such as "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" on TV, but they were not nearly as scary as some of the films kids can see today, nor as violent (or as prurient) as shows to which kids have access. And the internet? No wonder kids have fears.

Halloween can still be fun, and we hope some of the tips above will help make it so.

Remember, too, that in our region, it can be dark and lonely in some areas, so make sure your kids understand the rules of the street – where and when to cross, and nev­er to assume that drivers are going to see them, even at a street light.

Just make sure they’re careful. That will help to keep them safe.