Tips for Helping Your Anxious Child at Halloween

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helping your anxious child at halloween

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 overwhelming. Here are some tips for helping your anxious child at Halloween:

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Lucy dissolves into tears and refuses to go into the shop as she spots the Halloween display.

‘Don’t be silly, it’s just a costume!’ your older child snorts.

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 child is emotionally flooded and trying to reason with her doesn’t work.

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Helping Your Anxious Child at Halloween

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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.

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#1. Acknowledge It

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

#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 The Child’s Feelings

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 really scary’.

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#4. Be Your Child’s Advocate

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

#5. Anxiety = Powerlessness x Uncertainty

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.

#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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What have been your experiences with a child who easily feels anxious? What has worked for helping your anxious child? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

 

helping your anxious child

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Val Mullally
Val Mullally is an accredited Parenting Coach and founder of Koemba Parenting. She offers Parenting courses (both face-to-face and online). She’s available as a workshop facilitator and a keynote speaker. Val latest book 'BEHAVE - What To Do When Your Child Won’t’ is a must read for every caring parent, giving the three signposts to the Mindful Parenting approach that creates happier homes. ‘This little gem is my go-to [parenting] book’ Available on Amazon in paperback form and on Kindle. To find out more see http://geni.us/BEHAVEkindle Val spent many years in Southern Africa and now spends her time between the beautiful North East England and equally beautiful Cork, Ireland.