Halloween: The tricks and treats of a fun filled day
Halloween can be a high point of fun for lots of families. School-aged kids and teens look forward to the treats, the costumes, and especially the opportunity to give, or get, a gigantic scare from pranks and ghoulish attractions created just for the occasion.
But all that terrible scary fun stuff for older children, teens, and adults is just plain terror for babies and toddlers. Most moms like to participate in Halloween festivities because it can start a family tradition and let’s admit it: it’s fun to dress up Baby in a costume. The photo-op for Halloween is irresistible. But there is also a down side to Halloween, and that is the potential impact of the holiday’s fear factor on your baby’s stress level.
Babies respond to stress just like anyone else; one part of the brain sends chemical signals to other parts of the brain that enable us to process the stress and regain self-control. But there is a significant difference in the impact of stress on a baby—their brains are not yet developed enough to process stress. In fact, stress may short-circuit the development of that part of the brain receiving the signal. This part of the brain is the frontal cortex where the centers for self-control and self-management and decision-making are located.
Of course, your baby is likely to fear things and be subjected to stress occasionally even in the best of circumstances. How you handle that kind of intermittent stress is very important. But the effect of stress on brain development seems to be truly harmful in situations where stress and fear are frequent.
So why invite trouble? Here are four ways to help Baby feel stress-free during this spooky holiday:
- Protect your baby from frightening pranks that older children or even adults might pull on you when you are holding the baby.
- Don’t let anyone rush up to Baby’s face with a bizarre costume, even if it isn’t particularly scary.
- Decline the invitation to the neighborhood haunted house if Baby is with you.
- And even when you are shopping, avoid the large promotional displays that move threateningly or make loud fear producing noises.
No one would knowingly want to make a baby become frightened or terrified. And certainly if we all knew that the negative stress babies experience can have a lasting impact on not being able to handle normal life stresses at a later age, we certainly would not let Halloween initiate Baby’s fear factor. If Halloween is intended to be fun, we may have to work a little harder than expected to keep it baby-appropriate. But it is truly worth it in the long run.