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5 Ways to Help Children Who are Scared of Halloween and Bonfire Night

Thursday 13 October 2022

For many children, Halloween is a chance to have fun, dress up and eat too many sweets. But not all….

As Halloween has become a bigger and bigger part of British cultural life – with scary masks and costumes in every supermarket, spooky treats and decorations featuring ghosts, ghouls and monsters – it’s not surprising that for some children it’s all too much.

Then, less than a week later, the skies are filled with bangs and flashes as we celebrate Bonfire Night. And that can be scary, too.

If the children in your family are frightened by Halloween and/or Bonfire Night here are five tips that might help…

Explain what will happen:

Talking about Halloween and Bonfire Night before the big day can help children to understand what it’s all about and what to expect. It allows them to ask questions which may help to allay their fears. Tell them there’s no danger and that it’s all just make-believe, but be aware too that, from a child’s perspective, Halloween is full of shocks and people behaving in unfamiliar and unpredictable ways and that fear is a natural response. If they really don’t want to participate, don’t force them to. It’s better to allow them to come to it when they are ready to insist. If you have more than one child, you may have to make special arrangements so the one who is afraid can stay at home if they choose to.

Find alternative ways to celebrate:

Just because a child doesn’t want to go Trick or Treating or to a fireworks display doesn’t mean they can’t have fun in other ways. They might still want to dress up at home, bake cakes, watch their favourite film or play games. Particularly if you have other children who enjoy going out for Halloween and Bonfire Night, it’s important to provide fun alternatives so that less confident children don’t feel left out.

Acknowledge their fears:

For young children (and even some older children too), Halloween ghosts, ghouls and monsters can seem very real. While we, as adults, know it’s just someone wearing a convincing costume, they might not be able to make this distinctive and, so, fear is an appropriate response. Never make fun of a child who is scared or try to ‘jolly’ them out of it. Instead, behave as you would normally do if they were afraid – by comforting them and explaining that the monster is not real. By showing confidence in them that they can handle the experience, you might be able to help them to move beyond their fear. But, don’t push it if they are really afraid.

Be flexible:

If a child is afraid or not enjoying the activities, be prepared to pack up and come home early. Once you get home, do whatever you can to make them feel safe and comfortable. If they want to discuss what frightened them, discuss it but if they just want to snuggle up with a hot chocolate, do that.

Start small:

For some children who have never took part in Halloween or Bonfire Night before, the whole thing can be rather overwhelming. Start small with a few simple decorations, maybe some cake baking or dressing up. If they enjoy it, great. You can do more next year. Don’t roll out your most terrifying Halloween costumes and decorations until you are sure of how your children will respond. If your child is frightened of the bangs on Bonfire Night, you might want to help them to get used to the noise by playing with balloons beforehand – first uninflated balloons and then balloons that are inflated. Pop a few and show them that, while the noise might make them jump, there is nothing to fear.

Above all, when it comes to Halloween and Bonfire Night, be guided by your child. If it’s all too much for them, allow them to retreat to somewhere they feel safe and offer them comfort. There is always next year!

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