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Taking the Fright out of Halloween

How to keep the day fun for preschoolers

I live with Cinderella. Not the Cinderella you know--she's three feet tall and weighs 37 pounds. Still, many mornings she's dressed in an outgrown ballet costume, taffeta swishing as she sits down to breakfast. As Penelope Leach explains, "The 3-, 4- or 5-year-old is usually being somebody else."

On the other hand, Leach says, "Your child is riding on a crest of imagination in everything he does. This makes him liable to all kinds of supposing fears." Like most kids her age, my preschool Cinderella is afraid of scary costumes--ghosts, monsters, witches, and even clowns. Suppose that witch came in and got me? Suppose I see that ghost in my room tonight?

Both these natural inclinations come into play when Halloween rolls around. As adults, we're aware that Halloween has darker spiritual undertones, things we are carefully teaching our children to discern and avoid. But, as parents of preschoolers, we can build on the day's big appeal for our child--dressing up and candy!--yet ease their fears by avoiding scary-themed parties, costumes, and treats.

From Fear to Faith

But what if goblins show up at the door?

Preschoolers trust their parents. If you respond to the fearsome visitors with respect and authority, your child will respond with trust. Preschoolers' fears are easy to calm with a hug and an explanation: "That's just Jack from next door; see his feet under the costume?"

Perhaps together you might wrap cartoon tracts around top-notch candy bars. As you do, pray for the people who will receive them. This not only allows your child to be a neighborhood missionary, but it also gives her a feeling of control over the situation, which helps allay fears.

If your family chooses not to participate in trick-or-treating, your child can enjoy dress-up fun by attending an alternative party. Often churches specify, "No scary costumes." Children are likely to meet G.I. Joe and an extra-large package of M&Ms, but not Dracula. One year we attended a Nursery Rhyme party as an alternative, which allowed the kids to transform themselves into Old King Cole and Little Bo Peep.

One family we know has a tradition of reading The Pumpkin Patch Parable, a Christian book by Liz Curtis Higgs, after they carve smiley-faced pumpkins together.

During the Halloween season, it's especially important to monitor television viewing. In fact, you might choose to watch only previewed movies during late October.

With a little planning, Halloween can be both exciting and memorable. Your little Cinderella might learn a deeper lesson when you leave the porch light on all night, shining out into the darkness.

Sandra Byrd is a mother of two and an author who lives in Washington.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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