“Boo!” Or “boo-hoo”?

Halloween is upon us once again and with it comes costumes, corn mazes, and candy (way, way too much candy). Halloween themes of thrills, chills, and all out horror on occasion are all in good fun, but it is important to be mindful of whether or not your child is prepared to be scared.


According to research by the University of Texas Austin, children begin to develop the ability to distinguish what is real from what is not between the ages of 3 and 5. However, children may still have trouble ciphering fiction from reality up to the age of 12. In Psychology Today, Dr. Darcia Narvaez explains how our brains process information differently utilizing two pathways: “1) rapidly, in the more spontaneous, primitive part of the brain (limbic system); and 2) slowly, in the more rational, advanced part of the brain (cerebral cortex).”


When watching a scary movie, for example, our brains are operating in flight, fight, or freeze mode and, depending on the age and development of your child, they may not be able to reflect back on the movie later and rationalize what they saw. Young children’s brains are simply not developed enough to understand that the knife-baring villain in the movie Halloween is not real and not actually standing outside of their bedroom window.


It is no surprise that children are not always able to be rational. Think back on previous Halloweens and how the world completely stopped when your child was told they couldn’t eat their sweet loot all in one night. This inability to know what is real and what is not can cause nighttime fears and sleeping issues, according to one study by the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Luckily, this research also suggests that the best way to help your child overcome their fears is to help your child think critically and learn how to separate reality from fantasy.


So unless you want your child to have to sleep with the lights on, or worse, have to sleep in your bed for the foreseeable future, do your household a favor and go easy on the scares this Halloween – or at least make sure they are age appropriate. Otherwise, your playful “Boo!” might quickly turn into a ‘boo-hoo.’


For more information on helping your child overcome their fears, or general parenting tactics, be sure to check out the available courses at Sherry Blair Institute.


Featured Image: Artist Unknown