Is it just me or do Halloween costumes get uglier and more terrifying each year? And another question to ask is: How much horror should kids be exposed to? Even though they may laugh and shriek, are they really enjoying all that horror?
Cindy Dell Clark, a Penn State psychologist, studied six and seven year olds and found that Halloween was more terrifying for them than their parents had understood. Georgetown University’s Psychology Department also conducted research that suggests news broadcasts of violent events, perhaps not so far flung from Halloween gore, may be traumatic to children.
Another study published in the journal Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, revealed that children exposed to violent events show more symptoms of mental health problems, including posttraumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and general anxiety disorder. And yet another study of college students at Michigan and Wisconsin showed that 90% had been frightened by media violence during childhood or adolescence and about one out of four still experienced a "residual anxiety".
All this research seems to point out that the dark side is more terrifying than it is fun for children. Child psychologists generally agree that some aspects of Halloween may be too frightening for children who may not have the maturity to distinguish between pretend and actual events.
With this in mind, some parents choose for their children the lighter, fun side of Halloween, over the blood, gore, and horror houses. They go for hero and Disney character costumes, silly spooks, goofy ghosts, and smiling jack o lanterns. Pumpkin patches, hay rides, and many church sponsored fall festivals provide wholesome family fun in the Houston area.
Some options include the Children's Monster Museum of Houston at 1500 Binz, 713-522-113, or 7 Acre Wood Family Fun Park near Conroe, 936-890-2326, which is hosting a Pumpkin Patch, pony rides, hay ride, paintball and more. Old McDonalds Farm near Humble, 281-446-4001, offers a Pumpkin Patch, train rides, and petting zoo among other activities. And the Houston Zoo at 6200 Hermann Park Drive, 713-533-6500, has announced that Houston’s largest family-friendly Halloween event, ZooBoo, is back and better than ever!
For those who would rather host their own fun party, check out this Guide to Throwing a Fab Halloween Party. And how ever you choose to celebrate Halloween, remember to keep your pets safe indoors from frightening costumes and cruel pranks and follow the safety guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control.