If your child is afraid of costumes, you can try to reassure her by saying, “Costumes look scary, but they’re only pretend. People pretend to be ghosts just like you pretend you’re a fire fighter.” Sometimes such statements work, but often they don’t. If your child is afraid, and you’ve tried unsuccessfully to lessen her worries, don’t pressure her. She’ll grow out of her fears when she can understand what’s real and what’s not.
Sometimes a child will wear a costume but not a mask. Masks partially cover a child’s eyes and face, and this may intensify a child’s fears. Try using face makeup instead of a mask, or help your child make a mask that she can hold rather than wear. Such a mask will let her exert quick control and may make her feel more comfortable.
When Halloween night comes and most children’s costumes are on, the trick-or-treating begins. Your child may find this to be a difficult part of the holiday. It’s dark and there are many people outside, all looking like strangers, many looking very spooky. A child who finds costumes frightening may be overwhelmed by the sight of so many disguised trick-or-treaters.
Your child may be afraid to trick-or-treat at other people’s homes. All year long you’ve told her not to talk to strangers, and you and your child don’t go to unfamiliar houses. Yet on Halloween night it’s suddenly acceptable to go and ask for candy. A neighbor’s house may seem strange if your child has never been inside. And your child may be afraid either that people will answer their doors wearing scary costumes or that she’ll have to stand at a doorstep with other children dressed in frightening disguises.
Your twoor three-year-old may hesitate to trick-or-treat because she’s never done it before. And if your child is shy, she may not want to talk to neighbors, even if you coach her, “Now say, ‘Trick-or-treat.'” Many children don’t like to be focused on by people who admire their costumes. “Oh, look at the cute bunny! Who’s under there?”
There’s another side to trick-or-treat anxiety, your concerns about your child’s safety. Because of frightening news stories, many parents warn their children about unwrapped candy and spend time looking through their children’s bags for open or suspicious candy. In order to avoid the possibility of unsafe candy, some parents decide to skip trick-or-treating altogether, instead trying community parties, costume parades, home parties, or Halloween craft treats.
If you allow trick-or-treating, you’ll have to decide what to do with all the candy. You might try letting your child eat a few pieces on Halloween night or letting her eat whatever she wants. The days following the holiday can be challenging if your child doesn’t lose interest in her candy. If you want to eventually throw the goodies out, let your child know ahead of time, with the understanding that the candy really belongs to her. Let her pick out some pieces to save, realizing the work she did to get the candy and considering her feelings. Through all of this it might help you to realize that, while Halloween can be an exciting time, it’s not always easy for young children.