Fear - Fighting Halloween Games for Kids

Jenny Lutes

Some children have fears and anxieties, and childhood fears can be strong during Halloween. The night of candy collection can be fun, but there are also scary costumes, haunted houses, and frightening sound tracks and visuals everywhere. 

For all children, learning to master fears is an important developmental task. 
Halloween is a great time to talk about and confront the things they dread the most, in a fun and playful way.

90% of children between the ages of 2-14 have at least one very specific, real fear. 50% of kids...can't sleep at night because they're so worried.

Clinical Therapist, esteemed family counselor and author of Generation Stressed, Michele Kambolis can speak to this subject and provide practical playtime exercises that use Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) to reduce children's anxiety.  Kambolis makes this highly effective method accessible to all, enabling parents to help their children with home activities.

Halloween Worry Wall:

The Halloween Worry Wall lets children use their imagination to externalize fears and worries by writing each one on a post-it note, to then build a wall that can be torn down “brick by brick.” Help your child let go of the worries by writing or drawing as many worry and fear thoughts as she/he can and sticking them on her/his very own worry wall. Remind her/him that once the worries have been written down, she/he doesn’t have to think about them anymore. Each worry needs a positive thought to replace it, so don’t forget to build another wall - the optimism wall. Encourage your child to add her/his hopes, dreams and favourite memories.

How it’s done: All you need to make your Halloween Worry Wall are stacks of black and orange sticky notes, a white chalk pen, and a wall to hold your fears and worries.

Be a Brain Scientist:

Children love learning about their brain - they can see and better understand what is happening when they experience anxiety or fear, and they can also see how their anti-anxiety skills helps their brain to manage those powerful emotional responses. Make a jello brain mold and discover together how kids can use their amygdala, hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex to outsmart their fears.

How it's done: Add 1 3⁄4 cups of boiling water to 2 strawberry gelatin mixes and stir until completely dissolved. Stir in one five ounce can of evaporated milk and 3/4 cup cold water; pour into a Halloween Brain Mold sprayed with cooking spray. Refrigerate 1 hour or until gelatin is set but not firm.

Fear Fighting Spray:
Kids love to use the power of their imagination to fend off fear. Make your own Halloween inspired version of ‘Fear Fighting Spray’ so kids can spray it under the bed, in the closet or all around for a sense of inner control when facing something scary or new. As they use the spray to bounce back those feelings of fear, children learn that they have the power to fight back the thoughts that exacerbate their anxiety.

How it’s done: Half-fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of glycerin and essential oils. Add the glitter and top up the bottle with water. Put the lid on and shake it up.

Halloween glitter jars:
Observing and making separations from fear thoughts can be a tough concept even for adults, let alone young children. Slowing thoughts to a level where kids can “see” them is made much easier when they have playful tools. Create a Halloween Glitter Jar and shake it until the glitter is swirling around, then point out that this is just like all the fear thoughts swirling around our brains. Take a few deep breaths together, and as the glitter starts to settle, ask your child to imagine that the fear thoughts are settling down, too, gently clearing away the fear images in her mind.

How it’s done: To create your own Halloween Glitter Jar, fill a glass bottle full with warm water, a few squeezes of glitter glue and dry glitter.

Five of Michele's Halloween Tips-and-Tricks for Parents:

Halloween is a time when kids seem to want all the rules to go out the window. 
After all, it’s supposed to be fun! It’s also a time when children are highly 
motivated, giving parents a unique opportunity to use that motivation to build on important life skills like problem solving, compromise and self-care. With a few Halloween parenting tips and tricks you’ll be well on your way to a stress free Halloween:

How can I make sure my child remains safe when trick-or-treating with friends?

Allowing your child to trick-or-treat without adult supervision can challenge your parenting instincts. After all, in what other circumstance would we allow our children to walk around the neighborhood late at night, crossing streets and knocking on the doors of strangers? Almost eighty per cent of parents report having Halloween safety fears, yet less than thirty per cent talk about Halloween safety with their children. By creating a plan together, you can use the power of this ghoulish event to help your child remain safe, while learning valuable executive functioning skills: 

• Work together to decide upon a specific trick-or-treating route within a safe, well-lit neighbourhood.

• Ensure your child has a cell phone so you can both check in regularly.

• Halloween is by far the most dangerous day of the year for child pedestrians. Incorporate bright colours, glow sticks or reflective tape into your child's costume to ensure their safety. 

• Have your child carry a flashlight.

• Check that your child can see and walk easily. You’d be surprised how often children take a bad fall because their costume is too long!

• Join in for the first few blocks to troubleshoot any safety issues.

• Encourage your child to be aware and trust their instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.

• Play the ‘what if’ game. Ask what they’d do if they were separated from the group, if an adult invited them into their house, or if someone became hurt. Asking these questions will soon tell you whether your child is ready for the responsibility that comes with independence.

What do I do if I don’t agree with my child’s choice of Halloween costume?

Costume power struggles usually fall into two categories: too scary or too sexy. Whether you’re worried about a hyper-sexualized costume or a hyper-gory one, compromise is key. Children use Halloween as a time to explore, and with that comes a great opportunity to find out what they’re most curious about. Ask what they like most about the costume or character and help them find a ‘kid friendly’, toned down version. 

How do I manage my child's Halloween stash?

We work so hard to eat healthy all year round, and suddenly we’re left wondering what to do with a mountain of sugar in the house. Encourage your child to donate their candy or trade it in for cold hard cash. Some dentists and charitable organizations will pay your child for their Halloween candy. But most children are happy to keep their favourite pieces and give the rest away. 

How do I handle trick-or-treating friendship drama?

Halloween is a big night for kids and friendship drama can add an extra emotional charge. In most cases, kids work out a solution, but having your steady presence to help them metabolize their emotions, communicate their needs and set boundaries when necessary will bolster their social emotional skills. If your child is left without a trick-or-treating partner, consider joining in on one of the many local family friendly Halloween events.

How do I keep my child safe around Halloween fireworks?

Teens can be extra curious about fireworks and determined to use them. While the legal age to have them in Canada is 18, they’re easy to access. Instead, find out what the bylaws for using fireworks are in your neighbourhood and plan an adult led fireworks display that ensures both fun and safety. Keep in mind, even sparklers can burn at very high temperatures and need extremely close supervision. The key here is keeping the celebration fun and injury free!

* My previous post about Michele Kambolis' book Generation Stressed can be read here.

For anyone who knows a child with anxiety:
* ChiKids is Michele Kambolis' program for children that uses CBT: "CHIKids delivers an extraordinary curriculum designed to both boost emotional resilience and improve overall social-emotional development."  Take a look at the ChiKids site for details: thechikids.com

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