Halloween: Don’t scare your children!

Parenting tips for Halloween: Halloween can be scary! To scare: to fill, especially suddenly, with fear or terror; frighten; alarm.

Halloween changes the way people dress and look.

On Halloween, don’t scare your children!  Costumes on children and other adults can be scary to the young child.  “Children under 5 have problems distinguishing reality and fantasy in media.

Parenting Tips: Halloween at the Bank. This teller is dressed up like a circus ringmaster.

It doesn’t much matter what the adult says (‘it’s not real’) because it feels real to the child,” writes Darcia Navaez, Ph.D in Psychology Today.  We as parents need to remember that a child processes events differently than we do as adults.  While Halloween costumes and make-up may be a fun diversion for us, these things can be scary to a child.

One Halloween when my son was three, I went into a fabric store.  The owner wore a costume of devilish red and was wearing a headband with horns. She was sporting a red tail and carrying a red trident.

My son looked at her for a while and then asked, “Why are you dressed like a cow?”  Yes, children process things differently than adults!

Some of the costumes around today are scary!  Skeletons, witches, demons, make-up with blood dripping from make-believe wounds, clowns or other fantasy or violent characters are scary to young children.

Darcia Navaez, PhD also notes, “Joanne Cantor has documented how seeing the wrong movie (e.g., teen horror movie) at the wrong time (under 12) can scar a person for years (e.g., making them afraid of the dark, needing to sleep with a light on).  Don’t let that happen with your child!


Halloween parenting tips: Young lady dressed up as Minnie Mouse. Text reads: Halloween changes the way people dress and look.


Make  sure that you talk through this day with your child.  It is not usual to  see people dressed in costumes all day.  All the places a child may go on Halloween will look different: a trip to the bank, grocery store, school or early childhood learning center will be familiar places but all the adults and children will look out of place in their costumes.  Your child will be glad that you discuss the fact that adults will be wearing costumes.

Will your child be wearing a costume on Halloween? Make sure the costume is age appropriate and FUN! If your child is not going to wear a costume, make sure you discuss that as well. Remember, your children process things differently than you do. Give them plenty of time to ask questions.

Halloween changes a child’s routine.

While Halloween can lead to lots of fun with costumes, receiving treats and visiting their friends around the neighborhood or at the local fire department, this change in routine can be scary and overwhelming for young children.

Young children need parents to provide order.  They appreciate a regular schedule, expectations of sameness, predictable patterns to their day, etc.   Halloween changes their day!

And who of us has not experienced a child meltdown when the schedule changed?  It doesn’t even matter if the schedule change may be to the child’s advantage or to a more desirable activity.  The change itself may lead to tears, resistance, or a tantrum.


Halloween: Talk to your children about what they will see

Talk to your children about the different things they will do and see on Halloween.  Lisa Medoff writes, “When young children know what to expect, they become more confident in both themselves and the world around them. They know they will not be confronted with unfamiliar tasks for which they are unprepared.” (Routines: Why they matter and how to get started at education.com)  A good discussion with your children will help them process the variations in their Halloween day.

Enjoy the costumes and fun of Halloween.  But don’t scare your children. Talk to them about the day and have fun!

Halloween parenting tips: A person in an elephant costume could be scary to a young child on Halloween

Bonus facts about Halloween from Wikipedia:

History of the Name: The night before All Saint’s Eve when people remember their dead family members.

Gaelic and Welsh Influence: Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. Some peoples believed that this time of the year there was a “thinner boundary” between this world and the world of the dead. Ancient peoples believed that the souls of the dead return home on one night of the year and must be pacified by offerings.

Christian Influence: “Souling”, the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating.The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century and was found in parts of England, Flanders, Germany and Austria. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives. 

Spread to North America: The practice of celebrating Halloween seems to have arrived with the Irish immigrants in the 19th century.

Symbols: People who are recently dead, Satan, the devil, evil spirits, demons, Jack o’Lanterns, ghosts, burning of candles in a cemetery, corn husks, death, evil and mythical monsters are all symbols associated with Halloween.

Trick or Treating and Guising (dressing in a disguise) for children does not seem to have gained widespread popularity in North America until the 1930’s.

Costumes for People and Pets: While original costumes were of spirits and the spirit world, now costumes range from political figures to cartoon characters.

Games and Other Activities: There seems to be quite a history of using this time of year for divination, talking to the spirits or foretelling one’s future mate.

Haunted Attractions: From books to movies, there is a fascination with the world beyond death.

Halloween Summary:

As  Christians, we need to be careful to be biblical in our worldview. My own father never allowed my brother and I to go trick-or-treating because he saw it as begging. If we had needs (even for candy!), God would provide for us. However, we were allowed to dress up and hand out candy to our neighbors.

Churches have often shown a mixed response to Halloween. While the Bible talks of Satan, demon and the spirit world, Christians are careful not to trivialize these truths. The Bible is true, God is Creator and there really are spiritual battles.

Halloween now has become so commercialized that it hardly resembles the pagan roots of its history.  The National Retail Federation reports that spending for costumes is now over $8 billion dollars. And a new phenomenon of buying costumes for pets is a $3 billion dollar business (Pet News).

However you spend Halloween, please talk about it with your children, and don’t scare them this year. Enjoy the day- however you do, or don’t celebrate it.

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