6 Ways to Prepare Your
QUESTION: I have always enjoyed holidays
and Halloween is one of my favorites. I decorate the house and yard,
get dressed in costume and have "scary" treats for trick-or-treaters.
All the neighborhood kids love my house. My problem is that my four-year-old
son is petrified of anything Halloween. Does this mean I can't continue
with my traditions or can I do something to help him get over this?
ANSWER: Your son can definitely learn
to overcome his fears with preparation and proper pacing. If this
is one of your family rituals, he will no doubt come to love it as
much as you do if his needs for reassurance are met.
Consider the following points in preparing your four-year-old
for this year's Halloween:
Engage him in playful exercises.
These will help desensitize him to what he will be seeing on
Halloween: Start with face painting. Paint his face with a mask
and/or other decorations. Paint yours as well. The painting process
slows things down. He can get used to looking at himself in a mirror
and at you with a painted face. Practice making "scary" faces at
each other. And happy faces, too! Perhaps you both could try on
some wax vampire teeth. Also, consider wearing costumes around the
house during the week before the big day.
Anticipate his fears. Clearly
explain or demonstrate the pretend nature of scary objects that
you believe may frighten him. For example, if you construct a realistic
looking witch, goblin or monster for this event, tell him you are
doing so. Let him feel the texture of the rubber and remind him
that these are just dolls. Even play peek-a-boo with a scary, realistic
mask until squeals of pleasure replace a tense or worried expression.
Pace your playfulness, however, do not force it! Be sure he is in
on a similar wavelength. Leave the mask off longer if he looks tense
before putting it on only briefly again. Then give him the mask
and let him try to scare you, too!
Visit stores that display Halloween
costumes and decorations. Browsing will help desensitize him
to what may appear at his door on Halloween. In fact, he may be
relieved to know where these "monsters" really come from! Also,
discuss with your child what his friends are going to be for Halloween.
Create a quiet place for your
son to escape festivities. This allows him to withdraw from
too much stimulation, if necessary. Anticipate that he will need
some downtime while the event is going on. (Naturally, he should
have a parent with him for company and comfort.) Likewise, if he
does any trick-or-treating, be sure he is not overwhelmed by parades
of goblins that never stop. Make his trip a "short and sweet" success.
Involve him in giving out treats.
Also, ask him what kind of costume he would like to wear to help
you with this year's Halloween ritual. By having a job he can master,
it is likely that confidence will replace fear.
Always include safety awareness
in your Halloween preparation. Let your son know that he must
check with you before eating anything given to him. And don't forget
to bring along a flashlight to help light your way.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing
in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in
her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An
Easier Childbirth, Birthing
Normally and her latest book, Making
Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships
appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert
in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and
Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board
for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.
Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.
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