Kids and Halloween: How scary is too scary?

Cleveland Clinic expert says each child is different, and parents know best

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Spooky and scary is everywhere in October, whether via shows on TV or costumes and decorations in stores. But when it comes to little ones, how scary is too scary?

According to Dr. Neha Vyas, a family health physician at Cleveland Clinic, each child is different, which is why it's important for parents to know what their child is afraid of.

You know your own child better than anybody and every child is unique, Vyas said.

Most of the time, by the time they reach school age, children know how to separate fiction from reality. Until then, parents should be very guarded in what children see around Halloween. 

Vyas said parents should make sure they are able to tailor content on TV to the age of the youngest child who is watching.

She recommended teaching older siblings the rules about what their younger sibling can watch with them and what they can't watch.

It's best to prevent a situation where younger children are seeing things that they're not ready for, because scary images can be very disturbing for little ones.

Be especially sensitive to children who have recently experienced a death in the family or the death of a pet, as signs and symbols of death can be very scary to them during this time, Vyas said.

For very young children who are afraid of Halloween costumes, Vyas suggested allowing them to see mom or dad putting on their Halloween costume to help them understand that a mask is just a mask and that the person behind the costume is someone they know.

It's also important to keep in mind that everyone conquers their fears at different times in their life.

For those who have a teen or a pre-teen who feels pressure from friends to attend haunted houses this time of year -- but the child is not into it -- Vyas advised parents to have a plan to support them if they need an out in these types of situations.

Have an excuse ready so that you can pick them up early if you need to, she said. Have a code word, that way, if they are getting very scared, and they don't want to go through with it, they can text you and then you can pick them up and have your excuse ready for them. Allow them an opportunity to grow at their own pace.