For many of us in the Midwest, the first couple days of cool weather ignite an excitement that had been dormant since last fall. Sweaters, warm drinks, pumpkins, and the return of classic horror films on ABC Family.
In our house it means a never-ending pot of apple cider on the stove and endless hours on Pinterest in an attempt to find the perfect Halloween costume.
Back in the day, before stocking up on festive décor was my biggest concern, I was the queen of scary movies. Everything from the original Halloween movies to the latest Jordan Peele psychological thriller had my name written all over it.
Due to my lack of ability to stay up past 9:30 p.m., and because I don’t want to scar Sloan this early in life, I tend to stay away from the horror flicks and find myself enthralled in Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest.
So you can imagine my surprise when all of a sudden Sloan started saying “scary” to other people at the park, the ice machine in our fridge, and walking into dark rooms.
I’m usually pretty fluent in Sloan, so this new word seemed out of place and random, making me wonder where she had learned it and why she was suddenly associating commonplace things with fear.
I started to look into things that could be making her world seem scarier than usual. We put nightlights in the darkest parts of the house, I put her books about monsters in her closet, and I even sat her down to explain why things aren’t scary.
This is, until I realized that I was actually trying to tell my toddler that there is nothing to be afraid of in her giant, adult-sized world.
Was I insane?
I’m terrified of flying, I won’t go into our basement at night without Reid, and anything that slithers is my nightmare.
MONSTER – B – GONE
If your little one is suddenly afraid of what lurks in the dark, make them some Monster-B-Gone spray. We use water, coconut oil, and lavender oil to ward off any unwanted nighttime scaries.
Illogical fears? Maybe. But do I still feel afraid in those situations? Absolutely.
I did some research and found that children of Sloan’s age begin to comprehend playing pretend and the idea of imaginary worlds, which often leads to a blurred line of fantasy and reality. Not only that, but their long-term memory is beginning to develop, creating a bank of images, sounds, and moments that could evoke fear and apprehension.
Instead of telling Sloan her fears aren’t real, I’m focusing on figuring out what makes things scary and how to help her understand them. Take the ice machine, for example; I let Sloan fill her own cup with ice, and now when she hears the ice she understands that the noise has a purpose.
Not all things are as easily explained, like her fear of the dark and why she doesn’t need to feel scared. Where I would usually try to console her and say, “it isn’t scary,” I now talk her through turning off the light, using a flashlight to see nothing has changed, and together we accept that even though we can’t see into the closet, we know there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Fears change with age, experience, and outside factors, most of which we can’t control. The one thing we can control is how we embrace and understand the fears within our children, helping them cope with the uncertainty of new or fleeting anxiety.
Whether it be a sudden fear of the dark, the overwhelming need to be attached at your hip, or an abrupt suspicion of strangers, kids often don’t have the tools to understand their newfound worries.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
+ Children crave knowledge. Take the time to explain noises, people, or situations that seem to make them uncomfortable.
+ You can still celebrate Halloween with littles, just in a different manner. Utilize specials of their favorite shows or books to explore Halloween and all it has to offer.
+ Parents often dread trick-or-treating with young children due to the variety of terrifying costumes that roam from house to house. Taking your child to a costume store and showing them they’re just that may ease their (and your) apprehension.
This is where we come in.
When we give our kids the support, words, and explanations they need to interpret their anxieties, they realize that fear comes from the unknown, and not weakness or fragility.
Happy Halloween, everyone! And remember, being afraid is a natural part of life, and it’s our job to make it as smooth as possible.