The Current is proud to partner with columnist Lizzie Assa, founder of The Workplace for Children, a parenting strategist, play expert and mother of three who lives in Marblehead. Send your questions to Lizzie at AskLizzie@marbleheadnews.org.
My preschooler is really excited about the idea of Halloween, but he’s also a kid who gets scared easily. How can I make sure he has fun with all of the spooky decorations and costumes?
Your child is lucky to have a parent who is attuned to his emotions, and I completely understand your concerns about how to ensure they have a good experience on Halloween, especially if they are easily scared. Costumes are so realistic these days!
First and foremost, acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings and fears. Many preschoolers have questions and worries about Halloween, they are still developing their understanding of what’s real and what’s pretend.
To support your child on Halloween and ease their fears, here are some simple and practical strategies.
Play about Halloween. Play is how children make sense of their world.
Create a Halloween Basket at home. This can include a few Halloween-themed books, a mirror and simple masks or old costumes.
Using the materials in the basket, engage in role-playing games with your child. Let them dress up and knock on your door and say “trick or treat.” Switch roles and let them answer. Follow their lead, they are going to love playing this game with you!
Initiate conversations with your child about Halloween well in advance of the holiday. Remind them that people are still people even when wearing costumes. Use simple, non-scary wigs and masks to demonstrate this concept. Show them that you are still you, even with a silly wig on, and invite them to try it, too. Look in the mirror together and take the mask on and off, emphasizing that you are still you, underneath the mask. You’ll both have fun and they’ll have a better understanding when they see lots of costumes on Halloween. You’ll be able to say, “Remember? People are still themselves, even when they are dressed up in a costume.”
As a parent, you know your child best. If they are sensitive to scary sights and sounds, be mindful of their comfort. Avoid taking them to stores with intimidating Halloween displays or participating in overly scary activities like haunted houses. Keep in mind that Halloween should be enjoyable for your child, not anxiety-inducing. Communicate with older siblings and relatives to ensure they understand your child’s sensitivities and encourage them to engage in age-appropriate Halloween activities when your little one is involved. Ask them not to jump-scare your little one in the name of fun.
Books are always helpful. Explore the world of Halloween through gentle and age-appropriate books. Visit the library or bookstore to find titles like “Biscuit’s Pet and Play Halloween,” “Five Little Pumpkins” or “Herbert’s First Halloween.” Reading these books together can help your child better understand the holiday in a reassuring way, and open the door to conversations.
Lastly, remember to have fun and create Halloween traditions that feel good. Whether it’s pumpkin carving, making spooky crafts or baking themed treats, these traditions can help make Halloween a cherished and memorable time for your child. Your child’s feelings and fears are developmentally appropriate, and by addressing them with empathy and understanding, you’ll be able to have a Halloween that feels good to both of you.