Whether you want to celebrate Halloween or Bonfire Night, others will undoubtedly do so. While ghoulish celebrations, bonfires and fireworks might be fun for some, for many children they can simply be too scary. With spooky masks, screaming sounds and loud bangs, the evenings can become frightening and disconcerting for little ones.
Take a look at our tips to help your child feel less scared, as well as a few alternative ways in which they might be able to enjoy and take part in the festivities…
- Talk to your Child, Then Listen
Try to explain to your child what the celebrations are all about in a way you think they’ll understand, and give them some examples of what they can expect to see and hear in the days leading up to the event. Let them know that they are safe but that things will be a bit different and may seem little scary. Talking about Halloween and Bonfire Night can help children understand what it’s all about and if they have any fears or concerns, they can be aired and reassured. Inviting open discussion and answering any questions they might have will also help to alleviate any anxieties.
- Show an Understanding of your Child’s Fear
Fear is a legitimate feeling and it’s important for your child to understand that. It’s OK to be scared. Fear is a useful emotion and helps us assess danger. Rather than telling your child not to be afraid, tell them you understand why they find the mask, witch, skeleton or loud bangs scary. Those people dressed up at Halloween want to look scary, let your child know that. You can also own up to some of your own fears.
- Talk About the Facts
Once your child understands that we all feel scared sometimes, you can talk about the facts together to help them overcome it. Saying things like, “Yes, I can see why you think the witch looks scary - how do you think she made her face green like that? Do you think that’s her real nose, or a silly one she’s stuck on her face?”
- Put your Child in Control
Fears are a lot easier to deal with when we feel in control, ask your child if, and how they would like to mark Halloween or Bonfire Night. If they want to be involved, try to find the right amount of exposure they can handle, building their courage by taking small manageable steps to build confidence. Rather than your child having to do something they are aren’t comfortable with, offer suggestions such as: “Would you like to watch the fireworks from the window instead of going outside?”
- Facing their Fear
Use examples of situations in which your child was scared but faced their fear, and remind them how they overcame it. Maybe they were nervous about their first day at nursery, or the first time they went swimming – use things they enjoy doing now so that they can realise how brave they are! Many supermarkets are full of scary Halloween decorations and costumes this time of year, rather than trying to avoid them, try to help your child face their fear by pointing them out (from a distance if need be) and talk to your child about how they are pretend things - if they are able to get a bit closer, let them touch some of the things if they want to, this will help them realise they aren’t real.
Do remember that by avoiding things that they may find scary altogether, it can reinforce the idea that there is something to be afraid of – take small steps, keep talking and reassuring your little one that they are safe.
This year may be a little different anyway with the range of Covid-19 restrictions in place, but if you choose not to celebrate Halloween, a house with no pumpkin or decorations outside should help to send the message that you’d rather not have any trick or treat visitors knocking on your door.
Create distractions - try putting on a film or playing some music to mask (excuse the pun!) any noises of others celebrating. This is useful advice for Bonfire Night too – if your little one is scared of the flashes of light or the loud bangs, close the curtains, snuggle up together and watch a nice film, or alternatively, have a little disco and maybe play musical statues!
If it’s the bangs and loud noises of Bonfire Night that scare your little one, but they enjoy watching fireworks from the window, try getting them some ear defenders to reduce the noise. Have a look into whether there are any musical firework displays, where the music helps to mask the noise, or low-noise public displays near to where you live. This year, some venues may be offering a drive-in experience instead, where you can watch the display from the safety of your own car – if you fancy the visual without the audio this may be just the ticket!