Halloween is coming. Shops are stocked with costumes, kids
are frantically trying to decide between Spider-Man, Queen Elsa and Olaf. Moms
are trying to keep everyone happy and get the pumpkins picked, treat bags
ready, cupcakes baked for school harvest parties and keeping up with the
general excitement Halloween brings.
But what about those kids who don’t like Halloween? What
about the children who are scared of people in costumes, ghoul decorations and
bats lurking in the night? Those kids who are trying to keep the panic from
their friends, and informing their parents that they will not be dressing up
My son is 5 years old. He hasn’t liked characters and people
in costumes since he was at least 3. Theme parks are a
disaster. Halloween is a definite no go. Birthday parties with clowns or
characters can get tricky. And I’m OK with it all.
As soon as I realized my son was afraid of people who don’t
look quite the way he thinks they should (men are not supposed to have sharks
heads and giant chipmunks should not be able to give you a hug), I tried to
figure out how to help him. I didn’t force the issue. I didn’t make him push
past those fears so he could give a man in a giant frog costume a hug for
photos. I accepted that this was where my son was at and moved forward.
But when so many people are in costumes in a kid’s world,
how do you help them navigate those waters?
Prepare your child
If you are going to be at an event or resort where
characters and people in costumes may show up, give your child advance notice.
Prepare him or her so they aren’t surprised. Let them know when and where you
might see the characters. Also give them the option to skip the event or leave
the party early.
Empower your child
I gave him control of a situation that scared him.
Last year we visited Disney’s Aulani. This was the first
Disney experience my son ever had. I let him know ahead of time that Mickey and
Minnie may be on vacation there, along with Goofy, Chip and Dale. He was not
happy about this, but I explained that it was a big resort and there were many
pools. If he saw a character while we were out and about all he had to do was
grab me and we would immediately move to a different pool. I gave him control
of a situation that scared him, which made him feel better when we did
accidentally encounter characters while on route. He didn’t panic, he just hid
behind me or we took an alternate route.
I am not a helicopter mom. Far from it. I believe in letting
my kids explore the world in a variety of ways, and letting their imaginations
grow. My son has a very active imagination, but he is also very logical and a
realist. From the get-go he wanted to know how things worked, why they worked
that way and knew there was a certain order to the universe (he gets the
analytical stuff from his dad, but that logic and common sense is all me). I
knew my son’s fears were not irrational or so bad that he had a phobia we
needed to address right away. I had done my research. I knew this was very
common for his age group. He may or may not grow out of it (I have friends in
their 30s who still don’t like people in costumes). But I don’t push my son. I let
him test the waters as he grows.
Halloween is right around the corner, and for the fifth year
in a row we may be celebrating in an alternate fashion. My son has been going
back and forth on the issue. He really wants to be Spider-Man, but he isn’t
quite sure he wants to see a bunch of other people in costumes. Maybe this year
we will just go out to visit the local business; get our toes wet before we do
the night time trick or treating.
Then again, he may surprise us and want to go
all out. You just never know with kids, and that is the best part of being a
parent. Your children grow and surprise you at every turn, but for now if he
doesn’t want to see anyone in a costume, I’m not going to make a fuss. There
are plenty of other places to visit and events to attend that celebrate the
changing of the seasons.