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10/3/22 blog post

let's talk Halloween: 3 quick tips for handling spooky, scary feelings

how to have a healthy and fun Halloween for all

Hip Hip Hooray for Halloween! 

This holiday can be a source of Fall fun for the whole family, but with its tradition of spooky tricks and scary treats, there are a few “monsters” that can cause mental mayhem for a child. The On Our Sleeves experts are here just in time to give you the secrets on three major monsters and how you can slay them for a happy and healthy Halloween for all.  

The Ghost of Overstimulation

Candy and costumes and games oh my! Halloween is arguably the most fun night of the year, but all of the unusual activities may be overstimulating for some kids. Overstimulation can look like

  • Becoming excited more easily
  • Seeming more cranky, tired or irritable
  • Acting out (throwing themselves on the floor in tears) or being less cooperative
  • Becoming more clingy 

You can beat overstimulation to still have a good time by sharing clear expectations with your child about how the night will go. Discuss with your child what trick-or-treating will look like for your family. Try some of these phrases: 

  1. “Halloween is __ days away. We will wear costumes and go door to door to ask for candy, until 8 o’clock. 
  2. “When we go trick-or-treating make sure you say, “trick or treat” and then “thank you.”  
  3. “Don’t forget you have to hold a grown-ups hand and ask before you knock on a door.” 
  4. “Remember, you can have candy when we get home from trick-or-treat, after someone has checked it. Then, you then can have a piece of candy after dinner for a few weeks and then we will get rid of the candy.”
The Shyness Spell

Trick or treating, while fun, may be frightening for some young children. To these kids, walking up to a strange door and asking an adult for candy can seem intimidating, and cause them to clam up. Don't let the spell of shyness snatch the fun from the holiday. Try these things instead to help:

  1. Have a conversation about what’s “normal” on Halloween. Explain what the traditions and expectations are 
  2. Role play trick-or-treating with your child ahead of time. You can do it at your own home or a neighbor that your child is comfortable with.  
  3. Encourage your child to participate but do not force them to! 
  4. On the night of Halloween, offer to walk up to the door with your child and say “trick or treat” with them or for them.  
  5. Don’t guilt your child for wanting to skip a house if it is too scary or uncomfortable for them to approach.  
The Bogeyman of Fear 

For younger children, it’s hard to tell what’s fantasy and what’s the real world. And with the increasingly realistic special effects and decorations, some gory and spooky decorations may impact their mind or mental health (as far as bad dreams or experiencing fear). Since you know the spooky decorations are hard to miss, now is a good time to have a conversation with your child about them. Now’s a great time to remind them that these are only decorations and ensure them that they are safe. Here’s how to block the bogeyman:  

  1. Warn your child that they may see some people dressed in scary costumes. Remind them that this is all pretend and encourage them that you’ll be there with them to protect them.  
  2. Don’t shame a child for feeling scared, provide reassurance and support instead. 
  3. Come up with a few ways that your child can signal that they feel scared in the moment. You can try:
    • Squeezing your hand 
    • Taking a deep breath 
    • Repeating “it isn’t real, it is just pretend.” 
  4. Remind older kids that younger children might be scared of their costumes. Talk with older children about being respectful, and not trying to scare younger kids on purpose.   

Now you’re ready to tackle all the spooky, scary things out there on Halloween, especially the ones that take over the mind. On Our Sleeves hopes that you and your family have a fun and safe Halloween! 

Need more resources? Check out our guides.  

On Our Sleeves covers a range of topics to encourage mental health and wellness for children and we invite you to discover more of our guides and topics. And, if you’re looking for more ways to support others and discuss mental health,  join the movement of On Our Sleeves. We believe that no family should struggle alone in their journey with mental health. 

Emily Weitz, BSW, LSW

Community Behavioral Health Outreach Specialist
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