Tips for Scaring Away Halloween Fears – By Connie Hammer, Social Worker
1. Ask why and listen. Opening up a conversation with your child and listening without judgment can go a long way toward reducing fears. Be cautious about making this the topic of every conversation because this will only overindulge their fears and make them grow.
2. Validate feelings. Never tell a child there is nothing to be afraid of. It is important to accept any and all of their fears as real for them. Validating a child’s worries, doubts and fears is the first step towards normalizing them.
3. Separate fear from danger. It is important to help young children determine the difference between fear and danger. There are many things in this world we may fear that will never hurt us but actually help us. And there are those things, such as fire, that we need to fear for our own safety because it is dangerous and will hurt us.
4. Find the right balance. Don’t force, pressure or coerce your child into do something they are fearful of because it may backfire and make things worse. You know best what your child’s breaking point is.
5. Take baby steps. If you want your child to get over her fear of masks, for example, gradually expose her to the concept. Be patient and don’t rush, even though it may take weeks or months to accomplish.
6. Communicate with others. Remember that you are not the only one with a sensitive child. Talk to schools, churches, teachers, neighbors, friends and family about ways to make Halloween user-friendly and safe for all children. You will be surprised to find out just how many listening ears there are out there.
7. Have your own party. If you can’t be sure what will happen at a party your child is invited to, have your own. Plan a party with your child around Halloween items that feel safe to them, such as pumpkins. Help him/her carve a pumpkin with a smile on its face. Better yet, create the party around a theme that does not scare them – like fairy tales perhaps.
8. Role-play and practice. Have a Halloween dress rehearsal that will allow your child to have a positive experience with this annual autumn ritual. Make it their own by encouraging dress up, creating arts and crafts for decorations, identifying treats to hand out and what you have to do to get them.
9. Give your child control. In addition to the two ideas above, provide ample opportunity for your child to make choices. Just remember to limit them to two, always making one an option you know they will accept and feel safe with. Leaving choices open ended will only work to create another dilemma.
10. Write your own social story. A social story describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms that your child will understand. Often written from your child’s perspective it is a great way to introduce a new behavior, occasion or skill you want your child to master.
Connie Hammer has been a social worker for twenty years. She is a parent, educator, and parenting coach energetically guiding frustrated, lost and confused parents to achieve their parenting hopes and dreams. Connie founded her coaching business, The Progressive Parent, LLC, in 2005, and prior to that, spent 17 years working as a school social worker counseling children and supporting parents. Connie enjoys gardening, tennis and hiking along with yoga and meditation.
This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared on Connie’s website: Parent Coaching for Autism.
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