Expert Tips for Helping Your Anxious Child at Halloween

Val Mullally

October 28, 2021

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Does your child dissolve into tears and refuse to go into a shop once they spot the Halloween display? Halloween is a time when sensitive children can feel overwhelmed. Whilst some children love to have their ‘scary button’ pushed, for other children it’s just too overwhelming and that’s where these tips for helping your anxious child at Halloween will come in handy.

Why one child can be so much more anxious than others is hard to understand, but it doesn’t change the situation. Right now your anxious child is emotionally flooded and trying to reason with her doesn’t work.

Helping Your Anxious Child at Halloween

Firstly, I’ll share some thoughts that can be helpful for us, as adults to keep in mind: ‘What’s in the way is the way’.

Instead of seeing this anxiety as a problem that is in the way, consider it as the way – an opportunity – to deepen connection and communication.

A strong emotional reaction can be seen as a negative, or it can be seen as an opportunity to expand the family’s emotional intelligence. Our feelings are never wrong, it’s what we do with them that counts. Look for opportunities to chat about times when we might feel anxious and how our anxiety can be helpful.

For example, when we see something strange or that looks scary, we may feel anxious because we don’t know if this is safe. Our anxiety keeps us alert, watching out for any danger. If we didn’t feel anxious we might not keep ourselves safe.

So here are a few tips to help your child when anxiety threatens to overwhelm.

#1. Acknowledge It

Rather than dismissing your child’s experience, acknowledge it. For example, “You don’t like that scary witch” if you see a shop window display. Right now it’s their reality, even if we don’t experience it.

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#2. Don’t Label Them as an Anxious Child

Instead of referring to your child as an ‘anxious child’, rather name the emotion, for example, “are you feeling anxious?” or “are you feeling scared?”.

In other words, the emotion is just an experience right now, it’s not who the child is.

#3. Validate Your Child’s Feelings

How to help your anxious child at Halloween

By validating how your child is feeling, you are helping them understand that the feeling is understandable, and also that it does not define your child. For example: “I understand you don’t want to go into the shop, and that makes sense because you think the picture of the witch is scary.”

#4. Be Your Child’s Advocate

Be your child’s advocate if older children (or adults) tease them about their anxious reaction. He or she is already struggling with feelings that overwhelm, without being shamed or excluded.

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#5. Anxiety = Powerlessness x Uncertainty

This formula is from Emotional Equations by Chip Conley. When you help your child to have some sense of power or certainty, you significantly lower the anxiety. For example, “You could hold my hand and we won’t go near the witch, or we could go to another shop that doesn’t have such scary decorations.”

And if enough parents let shopkeepers know we’re not shopping there because of the scary decorations, they’re likely to diminish the ‘gruesome’. Why should our children be exposed to upsetting images that alarm them!

#6. Read or Tell a Story

Find a story book, or create your own stories, that share an example of a child (or animal) who learns that it’s okay to feel anxious sometimes. These books for anxious kids are a good place to start and may help to ease their worries.

#7. Anxiety is Contagious

Make sure you check in with yourself that your own anxiety is contained. Perhaps you’re getting stressed about your child’s stress. Focus on your breathing if you sense your own anxiety level is rising. When we steady our breathing, we steady our thoughts.

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Published On: October 28th, 2021 / Categories: For Parents / Last Updated: November 3rd, 2023 / Tags: , , /

About the Author: Val Mullally

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Val Mullally focuses on activating your inner wisdom in work, parenthood and life. She is an accredited Parenting Coach, Professional Reflective Practice Facilitator and founder of Koemba Parenting. She offers Parenting courses (both face-to-face and online), and is available as a workshop facilitator and a keynote speaker. Val is author of: 'BEHAVE - What to Do When Your Child Won’t’, ‘Stop Yelling – 9 Steps to Calmer, Happier Parenting’ ‘Baby and Toddler on Board – Mindful Parenting When a New Baby Joins the Family’ and ‘Ancient Wisdom for Business Success – How to Lead with Courage, Clarity and Confidence’ She is currently co-authoring ‘In Defence of the Naughty Child - Understanding Sensory Sensitivity’ and will be speaking on this topic at TEDx Wexford on 11 August 2022. Val spent many years in Southern Africa, where she worked as a teacher, principal and trainer in Education. She and her husband now live in the place her heart calls home, in their traditional Irish cottage in North County Cork, Ireland.

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