Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kids & Halloween: Dealing with the spooky and scary

It's almost here! Halloween is just around the bend. For many of us, the festivities began over the weekend with parties, church carnivals, fall festivals, and the like. If you have been in most retail establishments over the past 2 months, the decorations and costumes have been center stage. I, personally, love Halloween, and most kiddos love to dress up and trick-or-treat. But, along with the "good clean fun" of the holiday comes the inevitable spookiness.

Even if you dress your children in non-scary costumes and avoid haunted houses, you are bound to pass a spooky costume or two while you are out trick-or-treating. If you decide to visit a Halloween store to purchase costumes, you will have to pass through the displays of gruesome decorations. And as your kids get older, they may stumble across a scary movie on tv. The truth is, some aspects of Halloween are just downright scary for kids! So how do you handle it? I am by no means an expert, but here are some of my thoughts of handling the spooky and scary matters.

  • Don't ignore their fears. Every child is going to be afraid of something, at some point. It's just a part of childhood. Don't ignore it, address it.
  • Don't overreact to their fears. As bad as ignoring the fear is, it is just as unhealthy to reinforce that fear by overreacting. If you act afraid yourself, or make a big deal out of them being afraid, you will confirm to the child that there is something to fear.
  • DO allow them to communicate their fear. When you really listen, you might be surprised at why your kid is scared. They might not know that the frightening mask is meant to depict a horror-movie villain, they might just not like that they can't see the person's face. Or maybe they think that kid dressed as a vampire is actually bleeding and they are worried. Until you allow them to tell you, you really won't know the root of the fear.
  • DO remind them that it's all pretend. Don't simply say "there is nothing to be afraid of," but tell them why. Let them know that the scary decorations and costumes are just pretend, and even tell them what they really are. For example, "That monster is just another kid in a costume. I bet he's 4 years old just like you, and I bet he is excited to get candy too!" or "I see that ghost too, but Im not scared, because *look* it's just made out of fabric!"
  • DO give them a foundation for bravery. Reading and even memorizing scripture about the protection of God is a great way to reinforce a spirit of courage and faith. There are also some wonderful books and DVD's out there for this purpose. Some favorites of ours are Veggie Tales "Where is God When I'm Scared" and "Can God See Me in the Dark?" by Neil Lazano. These resources remind children that God is bigger than anything they could be afraid, that He cares about them, and they can put their trust in Him when they are afraid.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation,
whom then shall I fear?"
Psalm 27:1

"Even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places,
I won't be afraid at all,
because my Shepherd knows where I am.
He is here with me,
He keeps me safe,
He rescues me,
He makes me strong and brave!"
Psalm 23:4-5
(kid-friendly wording from The Jesus Storybook Bible)

I hope that you have a happy, fun, and not-too-spooky Halloween!

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