Scared of the Dark on Halloween Night?

jack-o-lantern in the bottom left hand corner sitting in a dark forest. The trees in the background open up to a full moon with two bats flying towards it.
Cheri Moore

Written by Cheri Moore

October 28, 2021

Scared of the dark? Halloween can be a fun night filled with friends and special treats. However, Halloween night can cause a lot of anxiety for reasons you may not have thought about before.

Visual processing difficulties are most often thought of in a classroom or school setting, but they follow your kids home too. Think about the extra fright your child may experience by seeing double of all the Halloween tricks and decorations. Those scenes from the movies where everything is spinning with the ghostly music in the background could be very similar to what your child will experience. No wonder they are scared of the dark on Halloween night and perhaps even other nights..

Scared of the Dark: Night Blindness

Most toddlers are not literally scared of the dark. They have to learn to wait while their eyes adjust to the darker room. However, there is a genetic condition called congenital stationary night blindness. These children are unable to see anything in the dark. In fact, even shadows on the wall or floor can look like dark holes through which they will fall. if that was my reality, I would be scared of the dark too.

To help you imagine their world and gain empathy, think of being in a car far underground void of all light.

Cave Tours

Have you ever toured a cave? If so, did your tour guide shut off all the lights?

This happened to me. I was amazed by the darkness and inability to see my hand. I remember feeling instantly unsafe. You could say I felt scared of the dark. If I moved my hand, would I accidentally hit someone? When the guide turned on a tiny pocket flashlight, I felt less anxious. But still not safe enough to take a step. In the dark, it is much harder to perceive depth perception. One step in the wrong direction might send me to an early grave.

three people walking out of a dark cave into the daylight. The cave is essentially black.

Everyone cheered when the lights were turned back on. Seeing where you are in space helps you move with confidence and feel safe.

Meet Emotional Needs on Halloween Night

When little ones are scared of the dark, give them a lantern. Listen and work together to create feelings of safety.

Whenever my family went out on Halloween night, I enjoyed taking our wagon or stroller. It amazed me what ended up in it: treats, extra blankets or coats, even my friends’ little ones. Wearing reflector tape, a reflector vest, or shoes that light up adds to the fun and safety of your children. You can take glow sticks and put them in their bucket, a pocket, or tape them around the wagon or stroller. My children could always find me when I stopped to chat with a friend.

If your child has night blindness, take advantage of trick or treating during daylight hours. Your friends and neighbors will understand. Night blindness is not an irrational fear. Your child may simply appear scared of the dark or the spooky Halloween tricks to others, but their fear is very rational. Invite one or more friends to join your child on their daylight Halloween rounds.

Then, return home and play games together. Perhaps even enjoy a bonfire. Involve your child in handing out candy from the safety of your well-lit front yard. Create a special atmosphere and a few traditions. How will you hand out treats this year with Covid?

5 Tips for Trick or Treating With Kids Who are Scared of the Dark

Scared of the Dark: Make the Parent Easy to Spot

You are their beacon of safety. Make sure that your child can easily find you. Wear bright colors so that you stand out on the busy sidewalks. Use glowsticks to illuminate yourself, the stroller, and/or the wagon.

Scared of the Dark: Bring a Flashlight

If your little one is scared of the dark, bring a few flashlights with you. A flashlight will give them a sense of control and make trick or treating even more fun.

Scared of the Dark: Go with a Group

If you are able, go trick or treating with a group of friends. Seeing their friends bravely go up to a spooky and dimly lit house can make the experience less scary. Even as adults, we tend to feel safer when we are in a group.

three kids dressed up trick or treating at dusk. There are standing in a doorway. The homeowner is a woman wearing a black witch hat holding an orange bowl of candy.

Scared of the Dark: Start Early

Make sure you have supper ready early. Start trick or treating as soon as your neighborhood allows so you can take advantage of those last few rays of sunlight.

Scared of the Dark: Go With the Flow

Halloween is for the kids. If the sun starts setting and your little one is scared of the dark and wants to go home. Then go home. Being willing to go with the flow and make the experience a good one is the best way to help your child.

Prepare Ahead of Time Using Stories

I recently learned about an author who is using stories to create sensory adventures. Familiar stories are told using everyday props from around your home hidden in a prop bag. What a wonderful, cool way to help children fall in love with stories by bringing them to life. Stories, where the main character overcomes a fear of the dark, can help your little one be brave on Halloween night.

Acting out stories is also a great way to foster a love of books in children with visual processing difficulties! Reading or even looking at a book with a parent can be cumbersome work for their visual system. Acting out the story gives their visual system a break. Storytime is important because it contributes to language development, visual imagery, memory skills, and so much more.

four kids sitting on a bench outside. In front of them is a curly haired girl acting out a story. All the kids are watching with smiles.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

In the fall, my favorite story is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. I like this story because the little old lady is brave instead of being scared of the noises in the dark. Also, this story is easy to act out with props easily found in your home. My children would listen in anticipation of the repetition in the story so they could act it out and challenge their memory.

Because children love repetition, I also like to tape sequencing pictures to the back of popsicle sticks. Later, you will hear them telling the story while trying to put the popsicle sticks in order. The best way to encourage storytelling is by asking your child to retell the story. You also learn what they understood from the story by doing this.

Listen to Your Child’s Emotions When They are Scared of the Dark

Listening to your child is the most valuable thing you can do as a parent. It is so easy to push feelings aside or think they will grow out of XYZ or being scared of the dark, but when there are underlying visual processing difficulties, such as night blindness, they cannot simply grow out of it. Yes, as they grow up they will develop their own coping mechanisms. However, there is a better solution!

First, I encourage you to read my post, How Toddler’s Behaviors and Emotions Speak Loudly about Visual Processing Difficulties. Next, take a day to walk in their shoes. I have created three observation activity booklets that will help you to better understand the world your child is living in. There is no need to wonder if there are concerns, find an eye doctor near your home.

What should you expect? The American WebMD shares helpful information about what to expect at your toddler’s eye exam. Eye exams do not require your little one to verbally respond in order to complete testing. 

How to Find an Eye Doctor Near You

If you think your child may have visual processing difficulties, make an appointment with a developmental optometrist or a neurorehabilitation optometrist who specializes in visual processing skills and vision therapy.

To find a developmental optometrist or a neurorehabilitation optometrist near your home use the following search engines:

Vision Therapy

Visual processing difficulties can create fear, anxiety, and even reluctance to try new things. Visual processing difficulties are not outgrown. Vision therapy is a vital step in helping the brain and body overcome any visual processing difficulty.

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