The Whispering Woods and Other “Scary” Things
I love pumpkins, dead leaves, scary movies, ghost stories, haunted houses, trick-or-treaters, zombies, and Halloween decorations, but when my oldest daughter, Emerson, was a baby I had to decide if I should I make Halloween less scary for my child.
Did I want her to experience Halloween? What happens if she sees something too scary and it scars her for life? Am I being a bad parent if I choose to take her down the Halloween decoration aisle at Target? How can I shield her from the horror and gore, but still participate in the festivities?
Ultimately, when Emerson was two, we did take her down the Halloween aisle. She saw skeletons, ghosts, monsters, and giant spiders. We pushed buttons and petted things. We laughed when things scared us and made us jump. She may have been a tad uneasy, but she didn’t cry! We made it fun! When we saw a scary costume, we explained that while she wanted to dress up like Cinderella, that person wanted to dress like a monster. We also tried our best to shield her eyes from frightening images on television, but sometimes she managed to pull away and catch a glimpse and we used that opportunity to teach her that those things aren’t real.
I think its all in presentation. You can teach your children how to react by how you react! As a result, you can create fear through your reaction. Sometimes, we walk a fine line between pushing our kids too hard and not pushing them enough. I think there should be a balance and at some point you need to introduce your child to things that might scare them.
Emerson is nine now, and a bit of a thrill-seeker. We keep our Halloween not-so-scary (since we have two younger ones) with cute costumes and family friendly decorations. She loves scary stories and Goosebumps books. I’ve let her watch a few Halloween movies with me, reminding her that its not real and to close her eyes if she gets scared.
Recently, we took our three children to Lowry Park Zoo’s Creatures of the Night. This year, the zoo had a spooky new scare-zone called “Whispering Woods.” My husband and I debated whether to do the walk-through while we waited in line. For 45 minutes, I wondered if I was making the right decision. What happens if the kids aren’t ready for this? What if I ruin my kids’ happy childhood by scaring them to death?… BUT my kids were excited to go through… and sometimes, as a parent, you just have to see what happens!
The woods echoed with scary whispers and eerie sounds. Emerson walked with her dad. My two youngest, walked with me. Emerson was apprehensive as we turned the first corner. I saw someone lurking in the darkness and pointed him out to her and she was relieved that it wasn’t as scary as she was imagining. A few times we jumped, but we laughed it off. When we made it through, the kids were ready to go again!
Turns out, our kids were ready for Whispering Woods but I’m not buying tickets to Halloween Horror Nights yet! I do think its important to cautiously introduce your children to “scary” things. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you know how much Halloween is enough:
- Is your child comfortable with costume characters and mascots?
- Does your child like spooky decorations?
- Is your child able to determine between what is real and what is fake?
- Does your child enjoy scary stories and movies?
- How does your child react to fear?
- Are you comfortable with introducing your child to scary images and ideas?
Answer the questions and use your own discretion. My children are still young so I ere on the side of caution and do what we feel comfortable with. In October, we celebrate Halloween with trips to pumpkin patches, fall festivals, spooky-themed dinner, Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus and Monster House, and end with trick-or-treating. We save the horror films for after bedtime and look forward to the day we can laugh at the kids as we all walk through a truly terrifying Whispering Woods.