Anxious child

Scary Behavior and the Anxious Child

Copyright © Tina Feigal 2011

It’s the spookiest time of the year, and kids are all excited for what has proven to be their favorite holiday! How do you bring out the best in an intense child when all the dark shadows, frightening ghoulish images, unexpected fears, and candy-induced meltdowns threaten to haunt your family life?

You realize that Halloween has the potential to bring out the worst in your anxious child, so I thought you might just enjoy these 5 tips on preventing some pretty scary behavior.

1. Speak in a calm tone about Halloween. The temptation is to get excited yourself, to show enthusiasm for your normally anxious child’s experience, and to relive your own. But the effect is that it creates anxiety, so stay calmer than you normally would have.

2. Downplay the scary aspects of Halloween and emphasize the fun of running around in the dark.

3. If possible, put an anxious child in charge of keeping someone else brave and safe. Emphasize how she is needed, which will help her get through the experience feeling strong.

4. Discuss in advance how the candy will be handled. Get your child’s input, to avoid an “executive decision” and to prevent opposition. Say, “You get to decide how and when 1/4 of your candy is eaten.” Freeze at least 3/4 of it for gradual consumption over the next few months.

5. Don’t insist on trick-or-treating if your anxious child would rather stay home. If a new fear pops up, respond with compassion, and avoid saying, “You weren’t afraid of that last year!” New fears come with new awareness, which is all a part of normal child development.

Have a safe and happy Halloween, and may all the scary behavior be from the ghosts waving in the wind, and not from the fears of an anxious child.

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