Child's Fear of Halloween

Archived Q&A and Reviews


6-year-old does not want to see any scary costumes

Sept 2008

We have a 6 year old son who hates Halloween. He is easily scared and does not want to see any scary costumes this year. He is now in first grade - and at school that day there will be a costume parade - and some of the costumes will, of course, be scary. I cannot shield him from all scary costumes. I have shown him how masks are just rubber or plastic and that is all pretend. I think what might have triggered this extreme fear is that last year I took him to the El Cerrito Community Center haunted house. I even took him to the afternoon one with the lights on. At the end, there was a pretend corpse that was taking off its head. This made a lasting visual impression that took a few weeks or so to let go of and he especially thought about it when he was about to go to sleep. We told him how it was made of plastic, wires, paint, etc, and I think it helped - but now he is already dreading Halloween as it is about 6 weeks away. What should I do? Keep him home from school that day? Try to help him work through the fear? Some happy medium? Thanks! Suzanne

When it is closer to the date, there will be some Halloween activities at school. I'd let his teacher know that the holiday is frightening for him.

I'd have a conversation with my child and ask what he would like to do for Halloween. In my experence it is not the most academically enriched day in elementary school. If he wanted to stay at home, visit a pumpkin patch, or go to a museum I'd let him decide and spend the day with him. anon

I don't know if this will help but there is a Junie B. Jones book about how Junie B. is afraid of Halloween and how she deals with it. It might be fun for you to read together and come up with some solutions together for what your son can do/dress up as to make him less afraid. The book is ''Junie B. First Grader: BOO...and I MEAN IT!'' by Barbara Parks jennifer

I'd keep him home from school -- or go and do some other fun (and maybe educational?) thing that day -- not that much educational is happening in schools on Halloween! I'll bet this will be his last really fearful year.

My younger son, who is very sensitive, was afraid of Halloween for a few years. I think he must have been about 6 or 7 or so. He wasn't afraid to see scarey costumes in the way you describe, but he was afraid of the whole idea of going out, seeing dressed up people in the streets, etc. He goes to a Jewish School where Halloween isn't celebrated, so the costume parade wasn't an issue.

My feelings....Personally I dont' love Halloween (for reasons not necessary to go into here) I don't feel like kids HAVE to enjoy or participate in Halloween. Can he stay home from school the day of the parade? You can certainly keep him home Halloween night and turn off your outside lights so no one comes over.

I'm all for helping our kids work thru their fears and not protecting to the point of stifling them, but this is likely something he'll grow out of as he gets older, so why put him thru something that could be traumatic, as you found out from his past experiences?

And, do you really want him collecting all of that candy? He's making that part easy for you! Good luck, I know this is a tricky situation. Best to you, PS After 2 years my guy decided he liked Halloween and wanted to dress up and go out with his friends in our neighborhood. Some of his costumes still give me the creeps when I see them in the closet... Bah humbug about Halloween

3-year-old terrified of costumes - skip party?

Nov 2005

My husband and I are having a heated disagreement about whether to take our 3 year old daughter to a friend's Halloween Party. The same friend had a party last year and guests were mainly kids 5-12 and adults. She had fun with the kids and was a little put off by some of the costumes and decorations, but not bad. All was okay until she was terrified by one of the adults, a big guy (friend of my husbands) who was dressed as a gorilla with a scary mask - he had a little too much to drink and thought it was funny to scare her repeatedly and it took me blowing up at him to get him to stop. Over the last year, she has mentioned numerous times that she doesn't like gorillas and that they are scary and by extension, she doesn't like the guy dressed as a gorilla (she understands that it was her dad's friend in a costume, but it doesn't change her opinion). She also recently mentioned that she didn't want to go to the friend's Halloween Party - this was before we even knew they were going to have a party again. We are seeing signs of Halloween all over, so I think she is recalling last year and expressing herself and that we should listen. She also, as is typical of a 3 year old whose world is growing, has recently become much more aware and vocal about ''scary things'' including some characters in books, growling grizzly bears and wolves in Natl Geo, the skeletons/scarecrows/gory masks in windows for Halloween etc...The things she defines as ''scary'' really are understandably scary to a little kid, so we acknowledge and talk about them and try to help her understand that learning about things can help them become less scary and she's usually cool with it. I just don't see the point of shoving the Halloween Party and the unpredictable nature of it in her face. The night before this party, her preschool is having a Halloween Party and the teacher (wisely in my opinion) asked that kid and parent costumes be on the ''light'' side as kids this age can be easily shaken by costumes that are gory or just plain scary. I've told my husband to go to the party and enjoy himself, and that I am more than happy to stay home with her, but he insists that I am being ''over protective'' and ''ridiculous''. We take our daughter everywhere with us including parties and other gatherings with friends, camping, music shows, street faires, etc.. I just feel this particular party isn't really age appropriate for her at 3. Perhaps in another year or two. Would very much appreciate input/opinions from other parents. concerned mom

I think you're right. I wouldn't take my son, who is 4, to that party. He's easily scared, and has a pretty vivid imagination (which often tends to make things much worse than they are), and often the things that are bothering him, and that he considers scary, show up as nightmares and result in disturbed sleep for all of us. No sense in giving his imagination more fodder. Karen

I think you are right not to make your daughter go to the party when she is saying she doesn't want to go. But I think that you could encourage her to stand up to the things that scare her, be brave and tell the scary thing to go away! There are lots of scary things in our world when we are three and when we are thirty. Some of them we avoid but some will be there no matter what.

Empowering our kids to express their fears in a constructive way is going to help them throughout their lives. Of course, I would tell my child that I am there to help, support, hold their hands while they tell the scary thing to leave them alone. I don't think we should trivialize fears (''don't be a baby'') or negate them (''that's not scary'') but we can encourgage even young children to face their fears as much as is appropriate and with our support overcome them by making them go away or discovering that they really aren't as scary as we thought. Your daughter may be too young for it now but Pixar's movie Monsters Inc is a wonderful film about a little girl who overcomes her fear of a particular bad guy and whoops the tar out of him. Something I think we can all appreciate and experience vicariously. Hope it helps. anon

You are right. Your husband is wrong. Pre-school children don't have the ability to distinguish from real and make-believe. Stand your ground. It would be cruel to torture her. My two cents

You said the scary guy had too much to drink - in my opinion (and I'm a drinker myself, especially at parties) any party where the adults are drinking enough to impair their judgment is not a good scene for a child. Try to explain to your husband that you will have to be so vigilant that it will be no fun for you, so you would either prefer not to attend or you'd rather leave your child at home with a babysitter so you can have fun yourself. Maybe if you pitch it to your husband as an opportunity for the two of you to have fun w/o the kids, rather than persuade him he's wrong about his child psychology) he will not insist on your child being there. He's wrong, but I'd focus on the battle (keeping her away from the party) rather than the war. Good luck.

I'm sorry, but your husband is the one who's being ''ridiculous,'' and also his expectations of your daughter are developmentally inappropriate. In my opinion, forcing your daughter into a situation that truly scares her (a 3-year-old cannot understand your rational explanation that it's just a costume) is cruel, especially because it's completely unnecessary. My partner insisted on buying a mask this year that I knew would terrify our 2-year-old our daughter. Even though it was only a gorilla mask, as soon as she saw it, she became hysterical. She kept saying, ''I know it's pretend, but don't wear it!'' Hmmm . . . So my partner immediately took it off and put it away for another year. What other response could be appropriate? Kids this age cannot help but be afraid. Would your husband take your daughter to a scary movie? Anon