Remember those horror stories you heard as a child that made you start at every sound for months?
Or the fantastic creatures you could see in the candlelight when the lights went out (before the age of inverters and UPS)?
Were you ever scared of sleeping alone or going into dark spaces or did your imagination keep you company? Imagination can create monsters as easily as it can dispel them.
So how can we ensure that our children can soar on the wings of imagination and yet stay calm in the face of the monsters they face.
Starting with the smallest babies, we can empower them to face their fears. A baby can get startled with loud sounds, strange faces, and unusual happenings.
A parent who shouts louder than usual or one dressed in very unusual attire can make a child uneasy, especially if their caregivers seem uneasy as well.
So start at the very beginning.
Behave as normally as possible in circumstances that you wish children to be calm in
Frustrations, irritants in daily life can often make us react in less than polite ways. We raise our voices in anger; we act flustered if things go wrong.
Children pick up nuances from our behavior and learn how to react. So try and be as normal no matter what the situation and watch your babies take cues from you.
Every moment is a teaching moment
We do not suggest that you make every moment a time to teach something new and take the sheer joy of just being in the moment way.
Yet, most moments have something that you can learn from. When you see a spider with a web, you would be right in removing it, but instead of disgust and frustration, you can show your child how intricate the web is.
Your neighbor dressed as the wicked witch on Halloween is a chance to tell them how they should not be scared of witches and goblins.
Children have a great sense of wonder and who knows, seeing it through their eyes may be just the opportunity to shake the dust off your perspective.
Encourage new experiences
Whether it is new playmates, new playgrounds, or just new toys, encourage your little one to try out new things.
They may or may not love the new and may go back to the old and that is perfectly ok. But they should not hesitate from new experiences.
Dressing up in Halloween costumes and seeing others as monsters or weird creatures is fun (and nothing to be scared of). So let them participate in such events.
No fear transfer allowed
You think lizards are ugly and would rather none ever fell on you. But let your child make up their own mind about the lizard which also helps reduce mosquitoes and other insects about the house.
Your fears are born out of the circumstances and experiences you might have faced. They should not be the base for your child's anxieties.
Spark imagination in the unusual
A bat can fly at night in the dark. Isn't that something amazing?
Often stories of vampires and bats and monsters make an appearance on the eve of Halloween and full moon etc., but instead of dwelling on the fear of them, point out the wonder, or that we can see so many different creatures.
Teach them how to differentiate between real and imaginary
To a child, almost everything can seem overwhelmingly real at times. A person dressed up as a bear is as exciting as a bear.
As parents, it is our job to help them distinguish when necessary. A monster mask can make someone look scary, but letting them see that it is a mask, a costume, can help them understand that it is not real.
Letting them choose their costumes, and putting it on and removing it will also go a long way.
Halloween, dark, cool and long winter nights, the end of the year; all lend themselves to storytelling and shared experiences.
We hope you enjoy these opportunities to the fullest and make great memories with your little ones. You can equip them with imagination and courage.
So this season, go ahead, dress up as your worst fear and look at it through the wonder in a child's eyes.