• Dr. Lisa Marnell OTD, MBA

6 Ideas to Help Kids Who Feel Anxious at Halloween

Updated: Oct 30, 2019



Halloween and its ghosts and witches and goblins in an exciting time for many. But others, kids and adults included, can't wait for this season to be over. It is too scary, too intense, and far too stimulating from a sensory perspective.

Many of us who work with kids - or have kids ourselves - know that getting through this time of year and even enjoying it is a lofty goal. Here are some ideas I have put together through my own experience working with children and through looking at some research on child development.

1- Understand Child Development:

Halloween fears are normal for the 7 and under crowd. Research shows that children only begin to differentiate between fantasy and reality at ages 3 to 5 (University of Texas, 2006).


Try This Approach:

* Don’t be surprised if a child shows fear. Instead, reassure them and tell them they’re safe.

2- Talk to Children:

Prepare kids for what’s to come!

Let children know what to expect at a gathering but don’t paint things as good or bad: Say, “Children will wear costumes.” Then tell them what they WILL enjoy. “You will play fun games.”


3- Involve a Child:

Try these approaches:

* Practice “Trick or Treat” at home or at school. Kids give out pretend candy!

* Offer a child Halloween and non-Halloween choices:

Does she want to color a bat, a pumpkin, or a butterfly?

4- Alternate Activities:

Follow a Child’s Lead!

We can see when an activity makes a child feel anxious, so offer options. Try these approaches:

* A child could spend time in another classroom during a Halloween party at school.

* Offer a favorite activity to distract a child when Trick or Treaters come to the house or when driving through a scary, decorated neighborhood.


5- Sensory Supports:

Try these approaches:

* Limit the duration of activities.


* Ensure a child wears a costume with comfy material.

* Give a child explanations of what will happen at an event.

* In case of sensory overload, go to a quiet space.

6- Scared of Masks?

Terror of masks is a common childhood fear. Masks block a person’s expressions. This is disorienting to kids.

Try These Approaches:

* Play with ”Make-Up”. Kids learn that faces can look different.

* Make “costumes” for dolls. Use aluminum foil, material, tape. It helps when kids “make” costumes themselves.

* If a child is comfortable, play with a pleasant mask and a mirror.


I hope this is helpful and feel welcome to share any coping strategies that you use. I would love to hear them!

This information can be downloaded as a poster.

Download it HERE!

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Lisa Marnell MS, OTR/L

#ExecutiveFunction #School #Home #Halloween #CopingSkills

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