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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

October 22, 2002


Charlotte, NC -- Fun, not fright is the message Mecklenburg County Area Mental Health Authority (AMH) wants to share about children and Halloween.

Dr. Elizabeth Peterson-Vita, AMH clinical director, compiled a list of tips and suggestions that should help parents and other adults make choices that will help children enjoy the day.

· Tailor activities to children's ages. Young children are more easily (and seriously) frightened, so keep the atmosphere light, emphasizing costumes and treats.

· Plan different activities for different age groups. Pre-school children and pre-teens have very discrepant understandings and expectations for Halloween.

· Help young children understand the difference between real and make-believe by reassuring them about scary stories. Check to see if they're scared -- they may be afraid to tell you!

· Pre-screen potentially scary movies -- even the "classic" ones can have long-lasting effects.

· Be aware of any costumes or characters that your child ordinarily fears. For example, some small children are afraid of clowns. Explain to them that this is just a "dress-up" version.

· Emphasize the treats, not the tricks!

· Take advantage of Halloween as a learning opportunity in other ways. Encourage children to have fun, but mind their manners as they go from door to door!

· Children may show an increased fear of the dark around Halloween. Parents should be prepared, and may have to do some extra reassurance or use a nightlight, even though they thought their child had "outgrown" this fear.

· Shy children may be especially prone to some fearful behaviors, and also be reluctant to trick-or-treat, or actively participate in party activities.  These may be opportunities for parents to help children overcome some of these concerns. Or, parents can help to supplement some events, such as providing more quiet-time Halloween theme activities such as arts and crafts, baking, or a Halloween "fashion parade" at home.

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