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Helping Children Deal with Death
Helping Teens Deal with Death
As children grow, many parents notice that their once-fearless preschooler is suddenly scared of the dark, frightened by thunderstorms, or convinced there are monsters hiding under the bed. Childhood fears may be especially powerful this time of year, when scary Halloween decorations, masks and costumes are everywhere.
According to experts at Bradley Hospital, young children have a growing-and vivid-imagination and are often unable to differentiate between what's real and what's pretend. That's why they may suddenly become fearful of objects or events that they did not seem to mind only months earlier or are very frightened by trick-or-treaters dressed up in scary costumes.
"It's natural for children to develop childhood fears-it's part of their normal growth and development," says Peter Gillen, PsyD, a psychologist with Bradley Hospital. "As kids try to figure out the world around them, they are not entirely sure of what's fantasy and what's reality, so their imagination can create incredible things, like monsters. Halloween is also difficult for young kids to understand - why would a person do something scary on purpose? Preschoolers are also creatures of habit, so fear is often the way they react to unpredictable and unexpected events."
Gillen says that some of the most common fears experienced by young children are the dark, thunderstorms, monsters, animals and loud noises. Many children this age are also scared and anxious about being separated from their parents, especially when they are in a new situation, such as starting a new school. As children grow older and they learn to separate what's real from what's imaginary, they begin to develop more socially-oriented or abstract fears, such as social isolation, popularity and bullying.
For children who are frightened by Halloween, Gillen suggests that parents offer alternative activities to distract from the scary aspects of the holiday. He suggests asking your child to help in the Halloween preparations, such as carving the pumpkin or getting the candy ready. Rather than taking a child trick-or-treating, parents may want to have a child who is especially fearful assist with handing out candy, since kids feel safer and more secure in their own home.