When frightful isn’t delightful
It's the season for ghosts, goblins and scary things—especially for young children! Even if your family does not participate in Halloween activities, there are displays at stores, schools or activity centers.
Here are some ideas to help you help your child to understand and cope with some of the scary sights of the season.
Talk about the difference between real and pretend. Point out things that may be real (a puppy in a book, for example). Then point out what is pretend (a puppy that can talk like a person). Ask questions to help your child discover if something is real or pretend. “Can puppies really talk using words like you or I?” “How do puppies talk to us?” “What does it sound like when puppies talk (bark)?” “What does it sound like when you talk?”
Young children may not be able to decide what’s okay and what is scary. Reminding your child that something is pretend can help them to begin to learn the difference. Recognize that your child is afraid. Depending on the age of your child, it might be very easy or very difficult to determine when your child is afraid. Signs like crying, shrinking from strangers, running away, hiding, or becoming clingy may mean your child is afraid.
Don’t force something scary. If your child is scared, take a moment to comfort him using soothing words or physical contact. Even common signs that people are having fun (screaming in a “fun fright” for example) may be scary for a young child.
Once your child has been removed from something that made her afraid, talk about what was scary for her. Remind her about real and pretend, and let her know that it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference. Understand that for her, the fear was very real. It may even be helpful to read a book about being afraid, and how a character in a book addressed their fear. PA's Promise has a list of 10 books about being afraid.
Understand that your child will outgrow most fears. Providing him with a safe and accepting environment to share and work through his fears as he grows will help overcome those fears.