Handling anxious kids on Halloween

Tips for parents who have children who may get scared easily

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Lots of kids love to scare and be scared on Halloween, but some parents may have children who get a little anxious about all of the scary things they see.

Dr. Kristen Eastman is a pediatric psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's. She said preschool kids typically have the toughest time separating fantasy from reality at Halloween.

"These are the kids at this age who really do believe that there is a monster under the bed, so they don't quite get it when someone puts on a mask or a costume," said Eastman. "They think that that person has actually transformed into that scary person and they don't understand that they're still the same person underneath the mask."

Eastman said younger children may experience nightmares or throw tantrums to avoid scary store displays or decorations. She said once you recognize your child is afraid don't negate their fear.

A good way to calm their nerves is to take them around the neighborhood while the sun is still up and show them some scary decorations. This can help them understand that it's all make-believe.

You can also get out in front of their fear by talking about what they can expect, and by putting together a trick or treat plan.

Eastman said it can be something simple like ringing the doorbell then stepping back. If the person who answers the door is not wearing a scary mask, then the child can step forward to receive their treat.

"We literally practice things like that over and over to the point that now they're laughing about it and feeling in control of it, and now instead of it being something that they're afraid of, now it's something that they feel I know exactly what to expect and I know exactly what to do," said Eastman.

Eastman recommends parents let the children decide which houses they'd like to approach. She said to tell them that it's OK to skip a house that they might think is too scary.