Because children have recently been subjected to the real-life horrors of the terrorist attacks, many parents may find it hard to imagine a more inappropriate time for a holiday that celebrates fear and ghoulishness.

But, despite major malls across the country cancelling their “trick or treating” tradition this year, mental health experts say that going on with life — including Halloween — is one of the best ways parents can restore a sense of security and comfort in their kids’ lives.

Just be sensitive, they add.

“Routines and customary activities are really important to kids, and those events may be more important than ever with all the turmoil and chaos going on in the world,” explains Doctor, a child psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at Albany Medical College in New York.

MacIntyre says abrupt changes in those routines, instead of fending off fear, can sometimes have the opposite effect of sparking a sense of alarm.

“Kids take a lot of cues from their parents’ reactions to things, so I would say for starters, people shouldn’t think they should cancel the usual holiday routines or things they like to do on Halloween,” he adds.

MacIntyre cautions, however, that parents should be sensitive if kids don’t want to participate in normal Halloween activities.

“If kids are expressing fears or apprehensions about going out in the dark or going out trick-or-treating, then by all means, don’t force the issue of doing it for the sake of getting back to normal. It really may be a reaction to the truly scary things that are going on around the world,” he says.

On the other hand, even if kids are frothing at the bit to dress up and hit the candy trail, parents may still want to exercise some extra sensitivity, adds Doctor, medical director of Child and Adolescent Services at the Center for Emotional and Behavioral Health, Indian River Memorial Hospital in Vero Beach, Fla.

“This obviously isn’t the year for us as a nation to be thinking about the most frightening of costumes — the Freddy Kreuger and gory characters from ‘Scream,’ or other similar masks that have been so popular in the past,” she says.

Linger notes that some communities have even decided to shift their festivities to All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween, when people dress up as someone they greatly admire.

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