Minimizing the Halloween fear factor for children – Deseret News

Ghosts, goblins and ghouls of Halloween can present a challenge for parents of young children because even though kids may want to go trick-or-treating, they could be scared by what they encounter along the way.

Here are some ways parents can help their children have Halloween experiences that are festive but not frightening. Many of the tips and stories shared are responses to a Facebook post from the Deseret News.

A humorous approach

Completely shielding children from things that are scary could worsen any anxiety a child might be feeling, according to Bonnie Zucker’s book “Anxiety-Free Kids: An Interactive Guide for Parents and Children.” Zucker, a psychologist based in Maryland, wrote in her book that such protection reinforces the idea that children have something to be afraid of.

Instead, parents can try to familiarize their kids with some scary elements of Halloween by presenting them in a friendlier way.

The front door of Lindsey Bell’s home in Holly Springs, North Carolina, has taken on the appearance of a “silly monster.” Her family puts up less scary decorations throughout the house to make sure the kids have more fun than fear on Halloween, said Bell, a mother of three children ages 10 months to 6 years.

Traci Childs, owner of Nanny Traci in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said one family she nannies for decorates their porch with skeletons, a “creepy old lady” and a “giant spider” for Halloween. The family then comes up with funny names their kids can call the decorations and laugh about together.

Avoiding the gore

Children younger than 7 can have a hard time separating fantasy from reality, said Sarah Coyne, associate professor of human development at Brigham Young University. Consequently, younger kids tend to be more fearful of supernatural elements including monsters, skeletons and ghosts.

Trudy Owens of Orem took her granddaughter to Walgreens, where there were a few aisles of Halloween decorations, including skeletons, witches and spiders. Owens’ granddaughter held her hand and, with her other hand, began to examine some of the decorations.

“When she touched one of the huge spiders, she could tell it was fake and so lost her fear,” Owens said.

For many young children, however, masks can still be scary to wear or see on Halloween, and the same goes for costumes. Allie Baggett of Mount Hope, West Virginia, described her 2-year-old as one who “gets scared easily.”

“I still allow him to dress up, but nothing gory or scary,” Baggett said.

She plans to dress her son as a puppy for Halloween this year. In previous years, her son has been a pumpkin and a minion.

Andria Lewis of Springville also said her family avoids gory costumes. A Halloween tradition Lewis has developed is for her daughter to dress up as the protagonist from her current favorite movie. This year, her 6-year-old plans to dress up as Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series.

Safe trick-or-treating

In an article on the website Oaklee’s Family Guide, Theresa Kruczek, a counseling psychology professor at Ball State University, gave suggestions on how to make Halloween less scary for young children. She suggested limiting preschoolers to 30 minutes or less of activities, including trick-or-treating. She also recommended doing these activities during the daytime.

As children get older, parents should remain aware of their limits and take necessary precautions, according to Coyne, who explained that some kids are more fearful and anxious than others.