Overcoming children’s fears: How to make the most of Halloween to support your kids’ emotional and psychological development


Every year on Halloween, children and adults alike gather together to celebrate the day before the ghosts of the dead return to Earth. Although the tradition of Halloween as we see it today has dramatically shifted from the original Celtic rituals, the symbolism and psychological meaning behind it remain the same – to gain control over all matters unknown and scary.

     In this article, I want us to take a look at the function of Halloween for the psychological and emotional development of our children, and how to make the most out of this spooky, yet fun time of the year. 

     In almost every culture, there is the equivalent to Halloween. For example, in Bulgaria, around Christmas time, people called kukeri used to dress up in elaborate costumes with scary face masks and perform folk dances intended to scare away the evil spirits.

    Clearly, there is a lot more to these rituals than going door to door and asking for candy. 
“There is something truly empowering about getting dressed up in a scary costume and reversing the roles from the one, who is scared to the one, who scares.”

All children at a point in their development, usually pre-adolescence, become interested in all things scary and unknown – the dead, evil spirits, vampires, monsters, black magic, zombies, etc. Some even obsess over scary movies and watch them over and over and over again.What these interests do for a child psychologically is to give them a sense of power and control when they have none.

Do you remember the times when you liked scary stories by the campfire and liked to scare your little brother or sister when they least expect it? What follows is usually laughter – we make something scary turn into a fun game or a joke.

This gives us a sense of mastery over over fears and allows us to continue living our live as if there are no scary or dangerous things out there. The same psychological process is involved in the reading and telling of fairy tails, the performing of folk rituals and superstitious beliefs. We do something to protect ourselves from something else, unknown and scary.

Given all of this, here are a few suggestions on making the most out of the Halloween season:

  1. Work through your own fears. Children are very sensitive to their parents’ anxiety so the better grasp you have on your own fears, the more available you will be to handle your children’s.
  2. Take your children’s fears seriously and don’t make fun of them. Instead, explain, explain, explain.
  3. Read scary stories to your kids. Fiction, fairy tales and fantasy provide a great medium for mastery over fear.
  4. Turn scary things into fun and play. Play is a natural way for kids to express themselves. Join in on the fun and incorporate a scary theme into their games.
  5. And lastly, don’t forget to dress up too when you go trick or treating. Keeping the child in you alive will help you be better  in tune with your kids. Trick or treat!
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