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How to ease children's Halloween fear

Oct. 30, 2011 at 5:50 PM   |   Comments

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Many assume all children delight in scary Halloween masks, ghostly decor and haunted houses, but some do not and many are just terrified, a U.S. expert says.

Deborah Best, a child psychology expert who has studied developmental psychology for more than 40 years and who is professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, said to avoid unnecessary shrieks of terror, try to experience Halloween through the eyes of a child.

"Most children can't distinguish fantasy from reality until they are about 4 years old, so knocking on a stranger's door in a clown suit can be confusing and scary for younger children," Best said in a statement.

"Rather than surprising kids younger than age 5 with costumes you like, let them choose. Toddlers especially love trying on familiar items such as their parents' clothes, so a big hat and colorful tie might be all the costume he needs or wants. Talk about his costume, try it on, build it up and let him get familiar with it before it's trick-or-treat time. And if on Halloween night he still doesn't want to dress up, that's OK."

For children nervous about trick-or-treating, they might just be afraid of the unknown, Best said.

"Help ease fears by trick-or-treating before it gets dark and starting at a neighbor or friend's home so they can see familiar faces," Best said. "If it's not working, take your cue from from the child and head home."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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