October can be a difficult time for kids. Halloween is on the horizon, which can cause a mixture of emotions, the demands of school are increasing, and there can be a late year bout of environmental allergies to further add to any frustration and feelings of discomfort.
Although most kids love Halloween, even for those who love it the most, it can cause a mixture of excitement and anxiety. On the one hand, kids are excited about dressing up, the decorations and the candy, but on the other hand, they may also be frightened of some of the more ghoulish aspects, their thoughts and play may become hyper focused on “scary” scenarios, and it can set an already hypersensitive nervous system on overdrive. Being extra aware of your child’s sensory challenges will also be important. Unexpected and loud sounds can be painful for someone with auditory sensitivities. Those with tactile difficulties may find wearing a costume difficult, even if it’s a costume they really want.
Being available to talk to your kids about these conflicting emotions is important. Identifying that something can both be fun and scary at the same time will help children learn to be more flexible. During a time when your child is calm and available to listen, you can talk to them about the things they find scary and exciting and why. Having this talk while your child is calm is important to engage their rationale, thinking brain for logical problem solving. For children younger than 7, helping them to identify what is real and what is not is important for their developmental growth. For children of all ages, letting them know it’s ok to have these feelings and that they are safe and loved will help them to feel calm and in control.
When talking with kids about emotionally charged issues, it’s important to be non-judgemental. Avoid phrases like, “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “you’re too old to be scared”. Name it to Tame it is a phrase used in the Whole Brain Child. By appealing to the left-brain’s ability to use words and stories, we can help kids who are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or scared, to regain a feeling of calm and safety and be better be better equipped to handle uncomfortable environments and situations.
High quality sleep each night will also be beneficial. School age kids will need 10+ hours of sleep a night. Without adequate sleep, responding appropriately to these October challenges will make things even harder.
Being aware of these extra demands this month can help all of us adults who parent and work with kids to be extra sensitive to the challenges our kids might be facing and implement strategies to help. When our kids present with challenging behavior, remember that they are communicating that they need help – they do not yet have the skills to handle the stressors of that particular situation or experience. However, if we are able to engage empathetically with them, we’ll be able to help them develop the problem solving skills they need to be resilient and better able to handle future challenges.