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This Halloween, let your Kids be Spooked, not Traumatized

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

This Halloween, let your Kids be Spooked, not Traumatized

My late mother loved Halloween. She would set up a haunted house in the hayloft of our barn hanging sheet-clad ghosts from the beams and bowls of peeled grapes for eyeballs scattered throughout hay bales.  Kids in our neighborhood loved coming to our house for Halloween. 

But for many kids, gone are the days of furry puppy dog costumes, bedsheets with two slits cut out for eyes or jean overalls stuffed with hay to resemble scarecrows. Many costumes have turned ghoulish and even terrifying for kids (and adults like me.)

We have a street in our town where neighbors try to outdo one another with Halloween decorations. Many are cute, but over the years, most have gotten bloodier and more frightening; resembling scenes from an R-rated movie rather than a kids’ event. One home had a bloodied faced person hanging from the porch. As my eyes traveled down, I saw that his legs had been cut off. Spiders the size of cars hung on the sides of houses and skeletons anchored in their yards carried axes, bludgeoning other skeletons. Aside from being ghoulish, this didn’t even make sense (as though decorations should) because they were already dead.

In order to keep young children from seeing these sorts of things, our town hosts an afternoon where all the stores hand out candy to young children.  Parents, grandparents, and dog-lovers dress their children and canines in cute costumes like dinosaurs, M+M, s and bumblebees. But even this event has been invaded with folks wanting to change it, traumatizing children. As I walked my 2-year-old granddaughter, dressed in an enormous, furry squirrel costume up to one store, we were passed by a teen (who should have been in school) dressed in a disturbing outfit. She was stuffed with pillows resembling a pregnant woman and in the middle of her belly was a head covered in blood representing a baby breaking through her abdomen. Not only was this site awful, but the baby smiled an angry smile and had a “gotcha” look on his face. As she walked by, I marched my granddaughter into a nearby store.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Halloween as much as anyone else. But something has happened. Hollywood has taken over. Folks no longer satisfied with having healthy fun and taking the opportunity to socialize with neighbors compete with one another to push the blood and guts-envelope. Bloody heads, bodies cut in half and axes stuck in people’s skulls have no business occupying Halloween. If you want your kids to see these (which I certainly don’t recommend) turn on your television. Let them play video games but keep them off the streets because they are traumatizing young children. R-rated images should never be thrown in young kids’ faces. We know these harm kids.  Pay attention to how many young kids have nightmares. And no – it isn’t because they have eaten too much chocolate before bedtime.

This Halloween, bring fun back into the holiday. Take your kids out early in the evening (teens tend to trick-or-treat later) and stay with them. If you see a disgusting costume or a house laced with blood rather than silly witches, pass it by. Cross the street. And – let your neighbors work with you to keep Halloween a kids’ holiday, not an adult’s contest to see who can out-gore the other. It can be a time where neighbors chat with neighbors and kids chase one another or see who got more candy. Let our kids be kids. And make sure they wear bumblebees, not cannibals chewing on the pretend leg of another.

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