Health Watch -- When Trick-or-Treating isn't a Treat

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Halloween ghouls may be all too real for some children.

Most adults have fond memories of childhood trick-or-treating - crazy costumes, time with friends and lots of candy mixed in with just enough scares to be fun. But doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say some children may not think treat-or-treating is fun, and that's OK.

Dr. Pete Stavinoha, a UT Southwestern child psychiatrist, says parents shouldn't push a reluctant child into trick-or-treating. While we may think children will have fun because of our own memories, some children may not see it the same way. Some children enjoy the safe frights of Halloween night, but other children may not have that trust that everything will be OK. It may seem like a silly fear to adults who know that the monsters aren't real and that it's all just for fun. But, it could turn into a panic situation for a child. Forcing children into situations they fear isn't good for them.

If your child is afraid to go trick-or-treating, you could offer to tag along. Go trick-or-treating before sunset and carry a flashlight. That may make the situation less scary.

But if the child really doesn't want to go, think of something else to do that's fun, like a movie night at home with the family or a Halloween party. Parents should remember that in the grand scheme of things, trick-or-treating isn't that important. It's not worth forcing the issue or making your child uncomfortable.


Oct. 2004

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