Halloween Questions and Answers

ByABC News
October 30, 2001, 4:00 PM

Oct. 31 -- Leading child psychology experts address concerns posed by ABCNEWS.com users about Halloween and trick-or-treating. Here are excerpts from their answers:

1. Should I send my kids out on Halloween this year?

Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Training, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital:

Kids love Halloween, and it should not be denied. It is a national holiday, and for kids, quite important. It is celebrated in schools, at parties, and is looked forward to all year. To deny this, would be a major deprivation, and could even reinforce that something so horrible is happening, that we need to change our "business as usual." Most kids of all ages do not link Halloween with the terrorism events. Halloween is viewed as a party, as a time to dress up, and most importantly, a way for kids to allay fears of ghosts, goblins and supernatural events. It is much akin to playing. We would not want our younger kids to stop playing, since they work out most of their fears through this means. Why, then, should we abandon Halloween?

2. Is it normal for children and parents to experience fear and anxiety this Halloween?

Pete Stavinoha, Neuropsychologist, Children's Medical Center of Dallas:

It is normal for parents to feel a heightened sense of anxiety, particularly given the September 11th events as well as the ongoing anthrax concerns. I think that anytime you send your child into a situation where they're going to be going door to door or they're going to be out after dark should raise a parent's anxiety. But particularly this year with all of the heightened sense of vulnerability that we as citizens are feeling, I think it's very appropriate that parents feel this concern because that ought to lead them to more awareness about what the potential dangers are and some actions to deal with those.

3. What can parents do to deal with anxiety over sending their children trick-or-treating?

Pete Stavinoha, Neuropsychologist, Children's Medical Center of Dallas:

In order to deal with the anxiety about sending their kids trick-or-treating, parents need to look at their own anxieties about this and make sure they're not doing something that they're uncomfortable with. And parents probably ought to accompany their kids, carry a flashlight, and only go to homes where they know the people. They can also look for suitable alternatives such as school parties, church parties, and other things that will give parents a greater sense of comfort because they know and have a handle on what's going on. If a child is feeling a heightened sense of anxiety during this Halloween, there's no need to send a child off into a situation where they're going to feel more anxious. So if your child is expressing some reluctance about going trick-or-treating, they certainly don't need to go. Again you might look at an alternative such as a neighborhood party or something along those lines, or you can ask the child steps you can take as a parent to make them feel less anxious. "Can I come with you, can I walk up to the door with you, can I carry a flashlight, can we go before dark even starts?" So, there are things we can do to lessen that anxiety.