We’re quickly approaching a day I dread the most – Halloween! Ever since I was a small child, this day has done nothing but scare me. Skulls, ghosts, goblins, witches – umm, no thanks.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s darling to see little kids dressed as a beautiful princess or a world-saving super hero, but that’s where it ends. Even at 31-years-old, I get scared when I see someone in a clown costume, wearing a horrifying mask, or drenched in fake blood. If it scares me as an adult, I wonder what these kinds of images do to young children. Do they know how to differentiate between fake and real?
Because my curiosity always gets the best of me, I sat down with Kathy Thomas, PhD, director of Neuropsychology at Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center to get a child’s perspective and find out what parents can do to support their children when seeing distributing images.
“Some aspects of Halloween can be too frightening and I would caution parents to keep a close eye on their children,” said Dr. Thomas.
You want to make sure you’re there to remind kids what’s real and what’s fake. Children six and younger are still trying to sort this out and should be protected as much as possible from scary or horrifying pictures, costumes, movies and haunted houses.
Dr. Thomas also states that children interpret what they see differently based on what they’re going through on a personal level. “If a child recently experienced a death or other traumatic event, death-related images like those associated with Halloween can create unnecessary anxiety about the death or trauma. It can have a very negative impact on them.”
My Brave Book, written by Dr. Thomas, is a free resource to parents to help them communicate with their children following a traumatic event. The coloring-book is designed to provide a safe, comforting space for children to express their emotions.
Dr. Thomas offers the additional tips on how to identify if a child is having a difficult time and help them cope.
- Look for cues in behavior – withdrawn, moody, quiet, restless, irritable or difficult to soothe.
- Revert to immature activities – sucking thumb, rocking, and separation anxiety.
- To expedite healing, research tells us that children need to slow things down, share their feelings and feel heard and understood.
- The evil that exists in the world can be frightening even to adults. Reassure them of the goodness that equally co-exists in the world and in most people. Be honest when responding to their questions.
So, as the majority of people get ready to celebrate Halloween be on the lookout for little ones. Try to refrain from scaring them too much – you don’t know if you might wind up scarring them.
As for me, I’ll be sitting at home with the lights off waiting for it to be Nov. 1.