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Around Halloween every store has scary decorations! Some stores are scarier than others, especially in the eyes of young children.

My 2 ½ old grandson went to a volleyball game and the school mascot was a falcon. One look at that person with the falcon costume on and he never got off his dad’s lap the rest of the night. Before bed time all he could talk about was the scary bird at the game. He asked his father, "Will that scary bird come here to our house?" So you can see why Halloween can be more than a younger child can handle.

In a recent study of six and seven year olds reactions to Halloween, Penn State psychologist Cindy Dell Clark found that most parents underestimate just how terrifying the holiday can be for young children.

Why do children get scared at Halloween?

Toddlers are unable to understand the difference between real and pretend. Scary images and sounds common during Halloween can be harmful to young children and could even last a very long time in children's memories!

So how can you help them get through Halloween with very little trauma? Try these suggestions:

  1. Explain what Halloween is all about. This is the time when adults and older kids like to dress up and scare people.
  2. Label their feelings and reassure them. "I notice that you are feeling scared (or afraid), Don't worry I'll keep you safe!"
  3. Make costumes without masks so children can see clearly
  4. When out trick-or-treating or at Halloween events, be sure to stay with young children at all times.
  5. Be looking ahead for ways to avoid scary situations. Yes, you can tell Uncle Bob he has to take his mask off.
  6. Let your toddler decide how much they want to participate in Halloween activities. This gives them control of the situation.
  7. Trick-or-treat during the daytime. If you go out after dark, stay in well-lit areas. Staying in familiar neighborhoods is best.
  8. Use this as an opportunity to talk about strangers. Make sure they are told not to go into the homes or cars of anyone they don't know.
  9. Go to the bathroom before leaving home, so they won't have to use an unfamiliar bathroom.
  10. Finally check the sexual predator registry for homes to avoid. The website is:

Gail Brand

The UNL Learning Child Team

Gail Brand has been Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension for 20 years. She holds a B.S. Degree in Family and Consumer Science Education and a M.A. Degree in Housing and Human Development. Gail provides educational opportunities for individuals and families in the areas of early childhood, parenting and building relationships. She works with courses on-line that includes a Co-Parenting for Successful Kids course for 2000 parents yearly. Gail and Doug, her hu ...

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