How scary is too scary for your kids on Halloween

CSRA News

Soon little Paw Patrol characters, Fortnite fighters and even some scarier things like zombies will roam the streets. As you get ready to trick-or-treat with your kiddos on Wednesday night you might be thinking about how they will run into some scary things out there on Halloween.

On Tuesday, NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne talked to a psychologist at the Medical College of Georgia about how much is too much for your kids on the intense holiday. Dr. Christopher Drescher says it depends on the child when it comes to how scary is too scary.

“Parents know their kids best and knowing— do they like the excitement of like a scare, being startled or is that something that they really dislike?” Dr. Drescher says.

A key distinction on which to focus—make sure your child understands all the frightening fun is not real and that there is not any real danger present. If they are aware that the scary masks and spooky decorations are fake then they are more likely to be able to them.  

Dr. Drescher points out, the best way to know if your child is able to conceptualize reality versus fiction is to have a conversation with them about their understanding.  

“[While] looking at maybe a picture of someone in a costume say, ‘are they really a werewolf or are they really a wizard or witch?’ And see how the child responds,” Dr. Drescher recommends.

Dr. Drescher says just because your child is getting older, does not necessarily mean their tolerance for scary things is going up.

“It’s not a linear path so a very young child may be looking at characters and not have enough understanding to be scared. Whereas a couple years later, they’ve heard stories, they understand more about scary things so they actually are scared of things they weren’t earlier,” he explains.

Similarly, a traumatic event from the past year may cause your child to be more sensitive to frightening things. Preparation is the best way to avoid an upsetting situation while trick-or-treating.

“Telling them what they might see,” Dr. Drescher describes. “Even put a mask on and take it off so they can understand that there are just regular people underneath the masks and then be willing to leave if a child gets upset. The point of Halloween and things like this is to have a positive experience for your child.” Forcing your child to stay when they are scared will not make them stop being scared.

Dr. Drescher also has some advice for first time parents with trick-or-treaters. He says, start small. Do not try to cover a large area or be out for long. Go in a group so they can see other kids enjoying themselves. Let your child be the guide! If they love it then stay out, but if they are overwhelmed then go home and try again next year.

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