October 31st, 2011
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.
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!