Fright, Gore, and Candy: A Psychologist’s Guide to Halloween

Kids and candy

One of the most interesting parts of working as a psychologist in Littleton is seeing the excitement of children preparing for Halloween. Some kids will start planning their costume for next year as soon as they take their current costume off, some will run miles for candy, others could care less. This is also a time when many parents ask questions such as “how much candy should my child eat?” or “what is too scary for an elementary school student?” Fortunately, there is some flexibility in these answers. Read on to find out suggestions from a child behavior psychologist

Scared, yet?
Many parents are surprised to find out that popular events are too scary for children. Everything from community haunted houses to theme parks typically have age warnings, and as a parent, you should check on these. Further, if you know your child is generally anxious, or if he or she has specific fears (clowns, snakes, spiders, etc.) that would make him or her not enjoy the event, skip it and try again next year. A little scare is fun—which is why children seek out scary things—but go too far and your child could have a miserable time.

Violence and Gore

Today’s trends for scares include blood, guts, gore, and weapons! Some children are ready for this make-believe world; others are too strongly affected. Some ways to tell if your child is not ready for this sort of action include if they are very frightened, begin reenacting violent scenes or events, or if they have repeated nightmares. The levels vary from family to family and from child to child, so make sure to do your research to keep your child safe.


First and foremost, remember that your child’s physical health should always be evaluated by a physician. For kids who have a standard, unrestricted diet, the issue is more about self-control than health. Even if your child binges on an entire bag of Halloween candy and throws it all up, he or she is not likely to do permanent damage… but you may not want this outcome! Addressing this can be part of your long-term parenting goals of helping your child plan for the future and regulate their own behaviors, so try to offer some flexibility. Some kids are able to self-regulate, especially when parents help by sneaking in a healthy meal before trick-or-treat time (you can’t eat as much candy if you’re full already!). Others need help, and tools such as exchanging candy for toys, allowance , or even “points” for children using a point or star chart  can be a good way to curb that sugar intake while still helping your child build good self-regulation skills. Good old fashioned rationing also works well, and lets the child know that while he has “earned” the candy, parents are still in charge of making it responsible to eat.

For help throughout the year, consider meeting with a child psychologist or child therapist in Highlands Ranch for great ideas!




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