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By Roberta Munoz
Has Halloween become too over-the-top for young children? How can you make Halloween more about lighthearted hijinks than heart-stopping horror? Fright-fests can be good fun for grown-ups, but Rutgers University psychologist Cindy Dell-Clark says this isn’t always the case for kids. “Halloween is a holiday where everything is inverted and turned upside-down,” she says. “With activities like trick-or-treat, basic things like the stranger danger rule are suspended.” For kids, crossing boundaries can be empowering, but also confusing. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as October 31 approaches.
Give Kids Control
Prep for Trick-or-Treating
Encourage Cute Costumes
Embrace Innocent Symbols
Be Aware of Dark Themes
Monitor the Media
You can’t raise kids in a bubble, but you can stay alert to the media gore-fest that makes up a modern Halloween. Even kid-oriented TV networks can show holiday specials that veer into unnerving territory, so proceed with caution. If your kid is set on a frightfully fun movie night, avoid slasher flicks and nab a child-friendly Halloween classic, such as Casper or Hocus Pocus.
Gauge Your Child’s Mood
Exposure to scary stuff isn’t always bad. When children confront the things that frighten them, it helps them deal with trauma or irrational fears. But despite the popularity of demons and devils, kids are still kids. Developmental stages don’t change no matter how many games of Plants vs. Zombies your kid plays. If children are part of the mix, put their perspective front and center for a happy and healthy holiday.