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Here Comes the Boo: How Halloween Can Go From Scary to Fun

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By Caroline Schafer

October is all about all things pumpkin and the spooky season. Halloween night, specifically, is full of costumes, candy, and trick-or-treaters, but it can quickly become an evening of terrifying things for young children. There are a lot of scary costumes and houses with very scary decorations, and parents may have a hard time shielding their young children from all the things outside of their control. So, what’s a parent to do to ensure that young children still have fun on Halloween? 

Family spoke with Army spouse, Rachel Hellesvig, about how she helps make this potentially scary holiday fun for her two daughters, Nora (7) and Grace (9). Hellesvig and her family are stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and she and her husband love taking her daughters around their on-post neighborhood for an evening of child-friendly spooky fun, and she has some great advice on how to keep everyone happy on Halloween. 

How do you keep Halloween from getting too scary? 

We are huge Disney fans and love Halloween! We watch Halloween-themed Disney movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloweentown, and more! We also make sure to explain that the scary stuff isn’t real. When others are wearing masks and scary costumes, they are just playing dress-up. 

How do you prepare your children when you’re out trick-or-treating and you see a house with scary decorations? 

We try to gauge how scary the house will be. Some homes have just spooky decorative items, but others have music and someone jumping out at the trick-or-treaters. While this is fun for older kids and grown-ups, it can be frightening for a child. If we feel we need to, we will skip a house. However, we have found that if we say something a few moments ahead of time to the people at the home as we’re walking up that we are bringing little kids, they will stop doing the super scary stuff so the kids can get some candy. Generally, all we have to do is ask. Military families are pretty good about it. 

Do you have any other advice to help parents heading into this Halloween season? 

Kids naturally want to have fun, so sometimes just keeping things (even if they seem scary) fun and not serious helps. They tend to respond to our reactions, and if we show that it’s not real and is meant just to pretend, they will see that as well. Also, knowing the level of make-believe scary stuff your kid can handle is important. Some kids aren’t afraid of anything, and others are afraid of their shadows. Halloween doesn’t have to be scary, and if you have a kid who gets scared easily, don’t force them to do things they don’t want to do. That will take the fun out of the evening and out of the memories you are trying to create. 

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