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Why You Should Scare Your Kids This Halloween

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Why You Should Scare Your Kids This Halloween

It’s that time of year again, the season of scaring the pants off our kids while patching it up with pumpkins, pie, and sweet treats from the neighbors. For our family, the end of October signifies the moving of Mae and Haze’s ‘fear boundary’. How far can we push them this year? Can I hide in a closet wearing an evil pig mask and jump out wielding a sickle after they walk by? Or, are we still at the sneaking up and saying “Boo.” stage? What about scary stories, movies, and haunted houses?

Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. – Tao Te Ching.

It wasn’t always this way, we used to think that images of zombies, ghosts, and Frankenstein would send our kids to the wheelhouse of horror and scar their psyche with morbid images; creating sleepless nights, screaming fits, and fear of the world around them.

We aren’t showing them A Nightmare on Elm Street yet, or watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a cemetery at midnight with the sound of a generator humming in the background. No. But when we walked into a Halloween store last Saturday and were greeted by Regan (Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist) standing with her arms out, head ready to spin, and vomit on deck, we stopped and pushed the red button to activate her signature move. The girls stared, we laughed, and everyone moved on to find Strawberry Shortcake and Batgirl.

Here is where fear gets murky. Is it a double standard then that we didn’t go to the women’s costume area for my fear that Mae and Haze would see a scantily clad cop and an almost nude nurse? We fear them seeing those images more than the gashed up zombie faced girl at the checkout counter. Or perhaps, we fear having to explain it to them.


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What worries me is that we will protect Mae and Haze from the realities of life, rather than teach them why they exist and how to live with them. We don’t want to do that, which means we have to discuss uncomfortable topics with them as they strive to make sense of their surroundings.

While watching football the next day, with commercial to game segues filled with women jumping and shaking pom-poms that meet advertisements full of half dressed cowgirls eating BBQ sandwiches, I reflect on my typical command “Turn your heads.” If I ask them to turn their heads without explaining why, I’m giving my fear power and mystifying what images they did see.


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Seeing through our aversions to feel safe, starts with understanding and confronting, not confusing and running away from, things that make us feel uncomfortable. There are many things people fear: planes, spiders, and clowns (yes, a big one for me). But, regardless of what we fear, if we don’t explain why to our kids, we create confusion. If we can’t explain why, perhaps we should examine what we fear.

It’s when we ‘see through our fear’, rather than letting it paralyze us, that we understand what feeling safe means. Although, a few moments of paralyzing fear once a year may be healthy. Now, where’s my pig mask?

[box type=”blank” class=”bg-blue rounded-10″]What scares you the most? What fears have you put onto your children? Do you have any stories of working through your kid’s, or your own, fears?[/box]

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View Comments (4)
  • I love this post! My 7yo son loves all things spooky – he’s a huge fan of anything Tim Burton & Neil Gaiman, old monster movies, and Halloween. Even thought he’s drawn to it, it all still scares him. He seems to enjoy the process of “facing his fears” (his words) and when he’s really scared he likes to immerse himself in the part that’s scaring him. At first I worried that might be morbid, but then I realized how lucky we were that he recognized what needed to be done to overcome fear at such an early age. He’s still working on zombies though. 🙂

  • I agree with you on not protecting our children from the realities of life. I don’t hide the facts that there is evil and crime from my children. I don’t lie to them about the hard things that come up that we have to face every day. Sorry, I just don’t agree that we should scare our kids. I believe we should help them face fears and troubles that will naturally occur as they grow up. When my elementary school children, come home and tell me that their friends have been to haunted houses and scary events such as Disturbia, I just don’t understand it. I guess I just don’t see the value of exposing my children to things like that. There is real evil in this world and they find out about it way too fast. I also feel that letting our children watch horror movies and go to haunted houses desensitizes them to evil acts. Because of my personal faith, I just don’t even like Halloween. I personally won’t choose to participate in a holiday with roots in paganism and witchcraft. I feel Halloween encourages and promotes evil. I personally believe in demons and believe we are in a battle against evil. These are just my personal beliefs. Fortunately, we still live in a free country where you can celebrate Halloween and scaring your kids just like I can choose to not promote it and not take part. By the way, I agree that the women’s section of Halloween costumes are scary as well.

  • ‘Enjoying the process of facing his fears’ I like that, it reminds me of being lost in the woods, kind of knowing where you’re going, with night approaching – ‘pretty sure’ you’ll be fine. I only hope I can remember it when going on my first roller coaster – another fear of mine.

    Ah, ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ I think we’ll be sharing it with the girls soon.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Although we see things differently I appreciate that you don’t fear sharing them, as some may in a public forum.

    Whether we find specific imagery offensive or not, as you and I agree with the women’s section of the Halloween store, does not negate that it exists. We can ‘scare’ our kids in many ways, but educating them with real world application and understanding will, I believe, help them make better decisions about their environment and situations as they age.

    We don’t want to ‘scare’ our kids so they’ll act in a certain way. It’s more of an exploration of the emotional side. While I respect your opposition to the imagery, and agree that kids are desensitized by gruesome, pornographic, or other ‘objectionable’ material. I think that’s where it comes to knowing your child and what you want to explain to them, in the way you choose.

    We can’t, as I know you know, hide from the fact that people have different views and ways of expressing themselves – it’s not fearing those views but trying to understand them that I find value in. Things are ‘scary’ if they go left unexplained.

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