Halloween is supposed to be a fun time for kids of all ages. And for many it is. Dress up, hang out with friends or family, and collect candy. What could be bad? Plenty, if you ask 11-year-old Louise. Halloween is absolutely no fun at all for her. She knows she's supposed to enjoy the spooky decked out houses, the scary movies, the haunted homes in her neighborhood... but it FREAKS her out. Even the silly creatures in the Halloween TV commercials are disturbing. Her imagination runs away with her and she has nightmares for weeks.
Louise isn't the only kid I've seen with the Halloween haunts. There are plenty of normally happy-go-lucky youngsters who just cannot handle the intensity of the visual horrors that are put upon them this time of year. Teens too, although most are embarrassed to admit it. Their uncomfortable feelings often surface as mean, irritable, or annoying behavior. The truth is, sometimes a kid's character is just not built for so much scariness.
But what to do when Halloween is all around us? How can we help our sensitive kids develop the tools to get through, and possibly even enjoy this crazy holiday we've created? I'd like to offer a key to soothing the scaries from inside out: a short guided meditation for protection adapted from The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success. It's been a fear conqueror, and Halloween is another on the list. You can adapt the language to fit your child's age and developmental level. Once you read it to your child a few times (or make a recording*), he'll be able to start remembering and doing for himself before he heads out the door, turns on the TV, or shuts his light at bedtime.
Feeling Safe... a Guided Imagery For Protection:
"Be aware of the air going into your nose, down into your belly, and then out again through your nose. Let yourself find a comfortable rhythm breathing in and out slowly - one... two... three..., one... two... three... Now, be aware of your chest and your heart. Picture a Heart Center in the middle of your chest. As you breathe in and out, imagine a spark of light inside it. It may be as small as a dot - or it may already be large. It may be white, or pink, or green, or any color you like. Imagine this spot of light expanding with every slow breath you take, like a seed growing into hope and love. Allow it to bring comfort to melt away any fears and worries, filling your Heart and chest like a rippling rainbow.
"Keep breathing slowly as light gently spreads its warmth through your body, filling you with peace and calm. You have all the time you need. When this light of safety fills your whole body, imagine its protection spreading six inches past your skin. As it grows, notice if your protective light changes. Out one foot, two feet, three feet... It surrounds all of you - front, back, top, bottom, sideways - like being in a protective egg.
"Now picture putting a special seal around your safety light. It may be gold, silver, copper, or any other color. Inside you are safe and secure; nothing bad can come in. Only good. You are protected by your bubble of safety light. Anything harmful bounces off - back to where it came from.
"Whenever you're in need, help is always available... from your inner protector, your parents, a trusted adult, or a friend. You will know whom to call. You will know when you can take care of things yourself and when to ask for aid.
"You can feel safe and secure whenever you need. Just take a few minutes to relax and connect with your Heart, and allow your protective light to expand. You can do this in the morning, afternoon, or at night - anytime you'd like to melt away fears or worries. Anytime you'd like to feel safer and more secure. And each time you practice, it gets easier and easier to connect to your inner protector. You are safe."
*Adapted from The Power of Your Child's Imagination Double CD at www.ImageryForKids.com
Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA and author of the Los Angeles Times bestselling book, "The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success" (Perigee/Penguin). In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children's imagination. You can find out more about her at www.ImageryForKids.com.