Today is Halloween, time for costumes and candy. For some kids it’s all about the costume. For others it’s the candy or the fact that you get to be out in the neighborhood after dark. And for others it’s about the scare factor. It’s the one day of the year where we look forward to being afraid to the point that we seek it out. Where being afraid is part of the holiday tradition. (It’s a little weird when you put it that way, because most other days we avoid being afraid and if we are afraid of something, we would certainly never admit it.)
Kids, like all people, have varied tolerances of being scared. A game of hide-and-seek is an acceptable, mild scare level for all kids of all ages. There’s the anticipation of the seeker not knowing who they will see when they turn the corner. It’s not scary per se, but it will make your heart beat a little faster in anticipation. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum, the extreme scare that haunted houses thrive on. Scary music, black lights, frightening costumes jumping out at you triggering the fight-or-flight animal instinct that lives within all of us. Older kids love this extreme scare, while others want to prove how grown up they are by making it through such a scary experience.
Somewhere in the middle of the scare scale is being afraid of the dark. On Halloween it’s fun to be outside in the dark walking from house to house, making up stories of what might be lurking in the shadows. In costume the kids feel invincible, but once you get home, the shadows of the dark rooms can be too much to overcome. My kids do not like to go upstairs alone. In fact they will pull out every stall tactic in the book to not have to go upstairs by themselves. If they go together then it is moderately better, but they really prefer to have an adult up there with them. No matter how much we try to rationalize with them and explain that there is nothing to be afraid of, the fear is still there. At the end of a long day it can be very frustrating. It’s hard when you know for a fact there is nothing to fear but you can’t get them to believe it. Who knows what is running through their brains? Who knows why they feel this fear? They may never be able to explain it in words, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. So for now that means we go upstairs with them. It means there’s always a light on in their room while they sleep in case they wake up in the middle of the night. If that’s what it takes, then we’ll do it. Growing up is scary enough, home should be the one place where they don’t have to worry about being scared.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.