When Halloween is Scary

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Some families count down the days to Halloween as they prepare their costumes and candied festivities. Some families choose to not participate in Halloween, but enjoy the harvest of fall. Some of us don’t have feelings about it either way. Whatever we think and feel about the holiday, we all experience Halloween. At retail stores in the seasonal section, which is often right in the middle of the store, we see the face paint, creepy masks, and candy galore. Lowe’s offers a myriad of lawn decorations from cute to creepy. Yard displays pop up all over, from the big blow-up pumpkin with a peeping kitty to the whole front yard zombie horror scene. Social events from the Fright House billboards to the downtown festivities encourage us to not miss the big season. For most families, it is harmless fun. For some, Halloween is scary. What do you do if Halloween is too scary?

I don’t remember what the large blow-up figure was in the front yard. I do remember how it made my young son feel: afraid. Soon, he was nearly terrified. I tried the whole face your fears and cast them on Jesus approach. He was four years old. It didn’t work. To him this figure was real and threatening. His inability to understand the difference between real and pretend fueled his fear. It is not real. It cannot hurt you, I told him. I also respected his fear. I changed my route for errands during the Halloween season. When we did drive by yard displays that scared him, I told the yard display, which my son thought was real, you can’t hurt my son. His fear remained. We prayed against his fear again and again, and gave thanks to God that He is our protector and defender. I was so glad when that decoration was gone, and with it my son’s fear. When it went up the next year, that same child was barely afraid. He was older and remembered that while he feared the image, it had not harmed him. What little fear he possessed, we handled through conversation, questions for understanding, and again prayer. He knew the difference between real and pretend that year. He was ready to face his fear. We walked to the yard, and saw that it could not move except with the wind. The fear lost its power that Halloween.

Some children are fearful because we unknowingly transfer our childhood fears of Halloween to them. Through our comments, our concerns, and our decisions, we communicate the message that Halloween is scary. We may subconsciously reason that Halloween scared me, so it must be scary for my child. Our children are not us. If Halloween was a scary time for you as a child, you have the chance to face your fears as an adult with your child. Is your child young? Tell them how it was scary for you too, but you were never harmed in any way. Pray together and find the fun in Halloween. Is your child old enough to understand the difference between pretend and reality? Go to a Halloween costume store and look at the different costumes together for them to see that what once looked real and scary is just pretend. When they are ready, attend a community Halloween event early in the evening, when it is still light out.

When Halloween is a time of fear, respect the feeling of fear. If you know the precise cause of the fear, name it to keep the fear focused instead of generalized to Halloween. That costume was scary. That skeleton in the yard was scary. The decorations all over that yard were scary. Pray for them to experience the comfort and protection of our good God. Cast their fear on Jesus with much patience; it is rare for our own fears to cease after only casting them upon Christ once. Find the fun in Halloween for your child. Walk together in victory over fear step-by-step this Halloween.

Ellen Martin is a regular contributor for the Soul Care Collective.

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With a Master of Arts in Christian Education a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, Ellen loves to write and preach. She is grateful to embrace her vocation as mother to five young children and encourage others in their journey of being transformed into the image of God.

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