Halloween Kids VS Adults! | Julia Gilman
We don’t celebrate Halloween in our family. However, we pretend to play at being LOVE and dress up. Playing theater is a daily activity for us, not just one that is forbidden for Halloween. But it’s October, and in America, it’s practically synonymous with Halloween. Inevitably, the pumpkin lanterns, trick-or-treat bags, and Halloween decorations are everywhere. Spider webs, skeletons, and fake tombstones decorate our neighbor’s garden. In our favorite store, a princess costume hangs in the window, but a witch and a mummy also hang next to it. Whether we celebrate it or not, Halloween is part of our lives, at least for this month, which means I have to prepare my kids for the not-so-funny side of Halloween.
Don’t get me wrong, Halloween can have its fun side: the cute ladybug costumes, the glossy face paint, and the chocolate? Hooray!
But Halloween also has its dark and scary side: vampires, guts, cobwebs, and graveyards. Unfortunately, the creepy, scary side is becoming increasingly popular in the media and in the neighborhood. The ads for spooky nights, haunted festivals, and haunted house visits far outnumber the ads for apple shaking, pumpkin picking, and haymaking at fall festivals. Most rooms are decorated with haunted house themes rather than fall harvest themes. In addition, people do on Halloween what is usually against the rules: Taking candy from strangers, deliberately trying to scare others, indulging in blood and gore, etc.
Young children can be very afraid of Halloween when the common people and places in their lives suddenly don’t look the way they should. When friends and trusted adults now dress up as characters they don’t know, and the houses and shops they usually visit are now decorated as dark and scary places, saying “Don’t worry, it’s all fake” or “It’s okay, it’s not real” doesn’t calm their worries. This is because when children dress up in dramatic play, they often take on the roles of those they are dressing up in. They assume this character and often believe they are that character by pretending and feeling that they are “the construction worker” or “the mom” or “the doctor. So Halloween seems real enough to them, of course, and that’s all that matters.
Even if you don’t celebrate Halloween with your child, or if you’re planning friendlier Happy Harvest style events instead, chances are you and your child will encounter some of the darker aspects of Halloween along the way unless you plan to spend the entire month of October at home. Therefore, it is important to prepare your child for the more frightening aspects of Halloween. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the darker aspects of Halloween with your child:
1. Talk about what it means to be afraid in ordinary situations, long before Halloween. Children often don’t have the words to connect with their feelings or the means to express them verbally. If you notice a strong feeling in your child, discuss their actions and the feeling they have. Comments such as “Oh, I noticed you crying; you must be sad” or “I noticed you stomping; you must be angry” will help your child connect the word for his or her feelings with his or her feelings and actions. Before Halloween, if you notice that your child is afraid of something, talk about the reactions you have noticed and label that feeling. Talk about the things your child is afraid of and why. For example, if your child is afraid of the dark, what exactly is he afraid of? Is it because he can’t find his way to the bathroom in a dark hallway? Is it because the shadows are shaped like animals? Is it because he bumps into things in the dark? If your child is afraid of vermin, is it because he doesn’t like the way they look? Is it because they move too fast and run on the floor? Is it because they feel slimy? Talking about not only what is scary, but also why something is scary helps make the feared object less emotionally charged and more thoughtful and processed.
2. Tell your child one thing that frightens you and why… You must be honest but selective so as not to create fear in your child. Choose something that is unlikely to create a new fear, something that is far away and probably doesn’t exist or happen, but still something that is real to you. For example, bungee jumping. I have a great fear of bungee jumping. It’s too high, too fast, and it doesn’t seem safe. I could honestly talk about this fear without really creating a new fear for my son, because bungee jumping is definitely not for our future! Or I could say I’m afraid of field mice. Pet storehouse mice aren’t scary, but wild mice are. They’re ugly and sprouting, moving too fast and hard to catch. Country mice are unlikely in our future because we live in the city, so this probably wouldn’t cause a new fear in my son. However, I wouldn’t talk about my fear of losing my mother, as I can’t determine when that will happen, and it might very well cause fear in my own son. Although you should be selective in choosing the fear you want to share, it is important for your child to know that fear is something that happens to everyone.
3 Below, discuss strategies your child can use when she is afraid. Scary things are less scary if you have a plan of action to deal with them. Taking control of a scary situation makes it less scary and overwhelming. Before Halloween comes, give your child the power to deal with the feeling of fear. Talk about how your child can react to things that are not related to Halloween and that is scary. For example, if your child is afraid of bugs and stains in the yard, what can he do? Maybe spray the bug with a water gun, call the mother to catch the bug, or crush the bug. If your child is afraid of the dark, she can have a flashlight, a night light, glow-in-the-dark stickers, etc.
4. Talk about the strategies you personally use to stay calm and deal with your fears. That is, stay away from bungee jumping. And I would immediately hire an exterminator if I ever saw a mouse. Avoidance is certainly a valid teaching/modeling tactic, as is asking for help. But also other tactics like practice (e.g. talking in front of crowds), or adjustments, accommodations, distractions, etc. (i.e. playing music while in the elevator) should also be modeled/taught.
5. Once the foundation has been laid for identifying fear and dealing with it, relate the above discussions to Halloween. Notice that sometimes people find it fun to be scared or to question their fears on Halloween. Also, talk about why. That is, it gives people a sense of being brave, of facing up to things they normally fear, such as witches, villains, etc. It gives people the feeling of being strong or powerful when they are scared. Again, discussing why makes the situation less emotionally charged, more thoughtful, and better processed.
6. Discuss what your child can do when he or she feels overwhelmed or frightened by a costume or decoration. That is, close your eyes. Turn around. Carry a toy or safety blanket. Use a loud voice and say, “Stop, I don’t like this. Or ask her to go home or some other non-threatening place. It is important that you do not punish your child for being afraid or for the method you choose to deal with that fear.
7. you must also have a plan of protection. Prepare in advance what you will do if your child becomes frightened, i.e. offer a hug and kiss, help your child hide his/her eyes, take your child to a quiet, non-frightening place to calm him/her down, etc. and most of all, share your plan so that your child knows that both your plan and his/her plan are in place.
8 If you want, you can talk about the difference between reality and fantasy as part of your preparations for Halloween, but don’t get stuck on that part. For young children, the line between truth and reality is very thin and permeable. Often the things they pretend are as real and valid for them as yesterday’s events – sometimes even more “real” and easier to remember. Therefore, it is not worth getting involved in a battle of true or false. However, if you choose to discuss reality vs. fantasy, a useful game to illustrate this point is the game “Mask on – Mask off”. Show your child your face and say, “Look, it’s Mommy. Then partially cover your face: “See, it’s still me. Then put a mask on your face and say, “Quiet, it’s me down here.” Finally, take it off and say, “See, it’s still Mommy. The mask doesn’t change who I am, it just covers me.” Sometimes even this game is too scary for a kid who doesn’t want to see his parents changed in any way. So first try the game Mask in Mask in Mask, using a doll instead. Repeat the game with your child looking in the mirror, with other people, with other toys, etc. Then relate this game to the people in their costumes and houses with their decorations. The costumes and decorations don’t change who the people or places are; they just cover them up.
9 Finally, reading Halloween books such as Marie Torres Cimarusti’s Peek-a-Booo or Norman Bridwell’s First Halloween by Clifford can help reduce fears and illustrate the playful, fake aspect of Halloween. Again, don’t get lost in a real fake debate. The most important thing is that your child knows what fear means and has strategies to deal with it. Such skills are important for Halloween and even beyond that for life.
Halloween Kids VS Adults!
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