A Therapists Thoughts on Halloween
On October 31st, some families will celebrate Halloween. For many grown-ups, Halloween is a holiday filled with memories of dressing up in costume, going out for trick-or-treating and “having fun” being scared. Often the memories of Halloween that adults have, actually have their roots in our elementary school years – (first grade and beyond). As time passes, and we all grow older, we simply do not remember many – if any – of our experiences as “under 5’s”.
Under five year old children have difficulty discerning what is real and what is not so real. This function has not really fully matured yet. A preschooler may see someone put on a mask, and at that moment the familiar person feels like a stranger to them. Halloween to a preschooler can quickly cross over from being “good fun” into being “scary fun” or “mean fun”.
Child development specialists describe it this way: “Toddlers are still learning to distinguish between illusion and reality. Their efforts to make sense of the world are necessarily based on concrete observations and experiences. Young toddlers who are just learning to walk and have language are especially vulnerable to being shocked and overwhelmed, which can cause them to lose the gains that they have made. Unfortunately, most of us cannot remember how vulnerable we felt when we were toddlers so we are not always sensitive to the needs of young children.”
We all notice the many advertisements about Halloween and the decorations and special stores associated with Halloween and costumes. We are all bombarded with this holiday in our everyday lives.
Take into consideration all of the above, and most importantly the fact that many of the children are just beginning to feel safe in their new school setting – and consider celebrating Halloween with “under 5’s” a bit differently than with older children.