Media Advisory: More fun, less fear: Halloween tips for parents

Scary masks, ghostly décor and haunted houses are enough to spook many adults this time of year, so imagine how frightening Halloween can be for children.

To avoid unnecessary shrieks of terror, try to experience Halloween through the eyes of your child, suggests Deborah Best, a child psychology expert and professor of psychology at Wake Forest University.

“Most children can’t distinguish fantasy from reality until they are about four years old, so knocking on a stranger’s door in a clown suit can be confusing and scary for younger children,” said Best, who has studied developmental psychology for more than 40 years.

She offers simple tips to help parents ease their children’s most common Halloween fears and anxieties.

If scary costumes freak out your child…
Rather than surprising kids younger than five 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 okay.

If your child is nervous about trick-or-treating…
She’s probably just afraid of the unknown. Help ease her fears by trick-or-treating before it gets dark and starting at a neighbor or friend’s home. Seeing familiar faces and how much fun other kids are having might get her in the festive spirit. If not, take your cues from her and head home.

If you’re afraid Halloween sends mixed signals about religious beliefs…
Relax. From a child’s perspective, Halloween is about dressing up and getting candy, not religious meaning. Rest-assured, dressing like a devil or a monster for one night won’t jeopardize your child’s belief systems. In fact, dressing like scary characters actually helps children overcome their fears.

About Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at

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