We always try to stress the playfulness of Halloween. It’s a time for dressing up, playing games, singing songs, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, etc. However, even if you don’t have a haunted house or spooky music at your Halloween party, it can still be a scary time for many young children. People are wearing masks, some people are dressed as monsters or witches, there are a lot of strangers around, some children are running around saying “Boo!”… it’s a confusing time!
Here are a few tips for helping kids handle those fears.
1) Pass on the haunted house – Many adults get more excited about the holiday than the kids ^_^. We remember how fun the super spooky haunted houses were when we were children, but we forget that we were probably 10 or older at that time. If you are having a party with young kids (for example, 7 and under), avoid the scary stuff. Even with older kids, there is so much to have fun with at Halloween, haunted houses or zombie costumes aren’t really necessary. Brighten up the room, have the adults wear fun and friendly costumes, play some upbeat Halloween songs and games, and smile!
2) Be sensitive about masks – Avoid wearing masks or be prepared to greet the most nervous kids with your mask off at first, and let them watch you put your mask on. Take the mask on and off in front of kids who appear to be scared, so that they become familiar with the concept that it is someone they know behind the mask. Sometimes as adults, we forget how crazy some things must seem to kids. All of the sudden, on this one day of the year, a bunch of people are wearing masks! “Who are these people? Is that a real face? What’s going on?” Be aware that masks, even friendly masks, can be super creepy to kids, even some older kids.
3) Make “scary” things fun or silly – Every Halloween party has some witches, monsters, and vampires around. How we introduce these characters to young children will have a big effect on how they feel about them. For example, when we sing a song that introduces monsters or ghosts, we make sure the gesture or dance we do along with that vocabulary is fun and happy. Smile! Make these characters silly, not scary. Think of Monsters Inc. and how friendly those monsters are. We don’t want our kids going home and having nightmares about the scary creatures they saw at our Halloween party. Making these characters fun and silly helps take away the fear.
4) Empower kids with language – We’ve all seen that look in a kid’s eye when he or she is frozen with fear or apprehension and doesn’t know how to react. Give kids some language they can use to empower themselves when they feel scared. This is a good chance to teach kids that it’s okay to strongly say “No!” or “Go Away!” when they feel threatened. It doesn’t have to be a serious discussion. You can have fun with it. Try introducing the idea with the song Go Away!.
5) Give parents ideas for non-threatening costumes – Make sure parents know that Halloween costumes need not be scary. As Halloween parties become more common around the world, many people new to the holiday may have the impression that it’s all about being scary. If you are celebrating with parents and kids who are not very familiar with the holiday, give them some tips and let them know that this is a chance to play make-believe and dress up as anything they like. You can even ask all the kids to dress up as what they want to be when they are older.
Remember that while Halloween might be familiar to you, it’s new and completely strange to many young children. Before putting the finishing touches on your party preparation, take a minute to think about the party from the perspective of a 4 or 5 year old, and plan accordingly.
Have a HAPPY Halloween party!
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