Can Halloween harm a child? ‘Shuddering is a game’

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Lead image TXT 1: A little bit of shaking can’t hurt a child, say child therapists. Photo: Cottonbro via Pexels
At the end of this month it is Halloween in the Netherlands.  Photo: Omroep Gelderland

At the end of this month it is Halloween in the Netherlands. Photo: Omroep Gelderland

TWELLO – Do you have to expose children to horrors during Halloween? ‘No’, says councilor Arco Hak from SGP in Twello. It is simply too scary and shocking to show children skeletons, severed limbs and skulls. ‘Yes’, say several child therapists. It can’t hurt to show them and experience exciting things.

A group of residents and entrepreneurs in Twello is currently preparing the Halloween party in the center, after two years when this was not possible due to corona.

Co-organizer Michel van den Hengel says that everyone rejoices and rejoices, but Councilor Hak wants it to stay within the limits: Without severed limbs, skulls on sticks and skeletons on a cross. Of respect for death and of protection of Twello’s children.

What is truth? “A lot comes and goes with the development a child goes through,” says developmental psychologist and systems therapist Steven Pont. He writes columns and books about upbringing, the family and children’s development. There is no single truth, he emphasizes. “Kids love a game. And being creepy is ultimately a game, too. There are 4-year-olds who can do it just fine, and 11-year-olds who can’t sleep because of it.”

Controlled uncertainty

Roughly speaking it can be said that a child can handle abstractions more easily around the age of seven: then the doll goes into the corner, and the child often no longer believes in Sinterklaas. Because yes, can that man really be seven million places at once?’ explains Pont.

If parents are unsure of their child’s ability to handle Halloween pranks, they can prepare him or her for it. Softening the landing is what Pont calls it. “Children don’t go on slides in an amusement park because they feel 100 percent safe there, but because they experience controlled insecurity there. There is a difference between something that is exciting and something that is threatening.”

Children with anxiety disorders and victims of violence and war trauma will not feel at home at a Halloween party, argues SGP councilor Hak. Due to their mental health, they have to avoid such parties, which is why the SGP called on the Voorst city council three years ago to be critical when granting permission for such parties in the future.

A little bit of shaking can’t hurt a child, say child therapists. – Photo: Cottonbro via Pexels

‘Children should be afraid’

“I think you can go a long way with Halloween, depending on the child,” says Grace Murkes, who runs a child therapy practice in Arnhem. “There is a tendency for children to no longer be afraid or sad, but there is no need. Children know what is real and what is fake.”

Where does Halloween come from?
In the distant past, the Celts of Ireland celebrated New Year’s Eve on October 31. They believed that the spirits of the deceased then visited their former residences. In the nineteenth century, the celebration also arrived in the United States via Irish immigrants, where it became a widely celebrated holiday. Over the years, Halloween also reached the Netherlands: here it is celebrated every year on October 31.

According to her, children aged 8 or 9 have passed the ‘magic phase’ and know that people can die: that consciousness is present. The advantage of seeing something exciting or scary is that the child learns something about how it feels.

Murkes: “In this way you get to know yourself better and you discover that things will be fine again. The fear disappears and everything becomes normal again. Parents sometimes tend to want to solve all that, out of care and love , but it is not necessary.”

That’s what Apeldoorn child therapist Miriam van Hennik says. “Children need to learn to deal with fears and overcome them. It depends on the age, but children generally like to be scared. Halloween is exciting, fun and scary. From grade 4, they can tell the difference between reality and something that is fake. .It just depends on how you set it up. If you create a safe environment and are there as a father or mother, you can keep an eye on whether it might be too exciting for your child. And then you just say: we have we’ve seen enough, haven’t we? Shall we go home?”

Also see: Halloween party ‘too shocking and scary for young children’

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