Aside from October being fairly well-known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and now National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, this is also Halloween month. And all the networks are hauling out their scary programming because that’s what Halloween is all about.
Now, being of timid mien, myself, when it comes to ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, I certainly feel for your frightened toddler. The problem is some young ‘uns think they’re up for much more than they can, in fact, handle. Others have siblings who love scary stuff.
Scary actually is a moving target. What frightened your little one last year may be no big deal this year. Or the opposite can be true. So it’s not unlikely that you’ll find yourself watching a show that you and your child thought was going to be okay and it isn’t.
You can talk first about a program (although pointing out that Junior was pretty scared by said show last year might not go over so well – Junior is getting older). Also, if it’s potentially scary, don’t watch it at night, right before bedtime. Try to watch it during the day, then if it is too much, your child has time to be distracted and forget what he saw. The other important thing is to be there when watching the show to provide a safe haven, a warm lap to dive into if things get to be too much.
I might also add that you may not want to be so quick to turn off the TV. I remember my daughter begging us to watch a scary movie when she was four. When the first ghost came on screen, she ran around the room screaming, dove for her father’s lap, and put his hand up over her eyes. Then she pulled it down so she could see. Sometimes gutting it out can be your best option because it does allow your child to face and overcome her fear, which is a very good skill to have.
But then there are times when it simply is too much. No harm, no foul. You calmly turn it off and find something else to watch and/or read to your child. Distraction is a major help at this point.
At no time do you allow siblings to tease. Feeling scared like that is bad enough, and it’s even worse if you’re the older child. Look at it as a great opportunity to teach compassion. And now each sibling has a special bond with you – the ones who love scary stuff and the ones who don’t. So you save those activities to share with those of your children.
The best news of all is that if your child does get scared by something, this is hardly going to warp her. Yes, it is one of those very rare things that can stick with you your entire life – I know a woman in her 60s who still wouldn’t watch the movie Frankenstein because it had scared her so badly when she was a kid. And there’s me, of course (although that may just be the fact that I’m very near-sighted with an imagination that goes on triple overtime at night). But the worst outcome of a scary event is a few sleepless night, which are not fun, but survivable, and a strong distaste for horror. Oh, darn. I don’t want to see Saw Whatever Number They’re On. That’s so going to ruin my life. Like, not.