While Halloween fun centers around being scared, for some kids, it’s all too real. Some worry is normal, of course, but we don’t want thoughts of goblins and zombies keeping our little ones up at night. If worry is causing nightmares or tummy aches or has them wanting to avoid Halloween completely, don’t fret. Here are some tips for parents to help approach these fears. (They’re actually practical, too, which I always appreciate as a parent.)
- Validate the feelings. This doesn’t mean saying, “I know how you feel,” but more so something like, “I see (or hear) this is really hard for you. Lots of kids get worried around Halloween. Let’s make a plan so you feel in control.”
- Identify the goal. Is it to get lots of candy from trick-or-treating? Or maybe participating in activities with their friends? Make sure the goal is your child’s and not yours.
- Start making your game plan early. As in, as soon as the fears become evident.
- Visit Halloween-themed stores or drive by decorated houses so your skillful superhero can practice talking back to their worry in different Halloween-themed environments. Then, when they get anxious, gently remind them of the script you’ve practiced.
- Expect the worry to show up. When preparing for the big night, resist the urge to say, “No, it’ll be ok: you won’t be nervous.”
- Plan and prepare how the child will talk back to their ghoulish worry when it does shows up.
- Reward, reward, reward. Any time your child steps out of their comfort zone, fill their “brave jar” or put a note on the family’s “wall of flexibility.”
My approach as a therapist is to give parents and kids a process by which to address their worry and anxiety so they change their relationship to it. Instead of worry controlling them, they start regain control. Worry is going to show up any time we feel uncertain or uncomfortable. It’s just how it works.
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