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My Son Is Afraid of People in Costumes

Photograph by epSos .de

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 this year.

I have one of those kids.

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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.

Don’t push

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.

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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.

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