It is that time of year when the leaves begin to change colors, the air feels cooler, and stores stock up on scary and spooky decor and snacks. For many, this is the best holiday. However, the presence of anxiety can make Halloween feel challenging and worrisome. Children are especially prone to anxiety during this time of year. We are here to help. Below are Therapist recommended tips to combat these fears.
Show compassion, support, and validation. Although you may not know how they feel, offering support is crucial. Such as saying, "It is okay to be scared. I am glad you are here. I understand this is difficult for you and other children to get scared too. We can stay or go wherever you want."
Determine their brave goal. How does the child want to celebrate? Do they want to trick-or-treat? Find a haunted house to explore? Have a party with friends? Figuring out how they will enjoy themselves can ease some potential stress. Establishing these goals with your child will make them feel more in control and excited about these plans.
Model Courage and Distress Tolerance. Anyone can feel anxious at times. Anticipation and planning before worry sets in can help alleviate this. Show understanding by sharing how you manage worry. If children see you handling it calmly, they may feel that anxiety can be tolerated healthily.
Be prepared. Consider how your child will react and how to calm the worry. Think of the phrases below while calming them down.
"I am here and you are safe."
“I know this is hard, and I also love you too much to let your anxiety take over.”
“I believe you can do this and wouldn’t ask you to do anything that was actually dangerous.”
"How are you feeling?"
"I love you."
"I am proud of you for…..."
Reward moments of bravery. While fighting against anxiety is tough, it is important to recognize and reward the courage exhibited by the child in facing their fears. As a result, offer incentives and a reward system for their hard work.
Try to relax and breathe. In times of stress, our bodies automatically switch into “flight, fight, or freeze” mode. Our muscles tense up as our heart rates increase. We experience shallow breathing. However, when we are in a state of calm, our bodies are in “rest and digest” mode. Our muscles are relaxed as our breathing and heart rate remain stable. Practicing breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety. Try the following exercise with your child:
"Close your eyes and imagine you are holding a water balloon in your hand. Pretend you are trying to pop the balloon and make fists with your hands as you take a deep breath in. After three seconds, release the balloon as you exhale.” Repeat this exercise as many times as needed.
Additionally, there are a few activities you can try to get ready for the big day. Taking these steps can ease the child and get them excited for Halloween.
Explore Halloween-themed events with your little ones. During this time of year, there are many pumpkin-themed and not-so-scary activities to enjoy together.
Find costumes and decorations of shows, characters, and activities they like. If they get anxious, they can put on their gear and imagine they are as brave as their heroes.
Halloween DIY Sensory box. Think back to when you were a kid, and you put your hand in a box to feel mysterious objects. This sensory activity can be done at home and bring out imagination and curiosity. You will need wet spaghetti (for worms), peeled grapes (for eyeballs), or Thread (for spiderwebs). Any item can be added to the box, be creative!
Among the worry and fear, there is candy, fun, and fall in the air. Try to remember these tips to build your child’s confidence.