Parenting: Preparing your child for scary movies

October 16, 2012

With Halloween fast approaching, now is the time where lots of horror flicks and haunted houses are ripe for viewing.

But as a parent, how do you know your child is ready for the scary experience?

Rick Williams recently asked an expert for some advice in the Action News Parenting Perspective.

My 10-year-old son Nicholas has been eager to watch a scary movie, so together we hit the couch. And while it was fun for us, experts say it can have lasting effects if your child isn't ready.

"For those younger kids, you are really putting them in a situation where they are being afraid, and they can't manage it so well," said Dr. Elizabeth Gosch.

Child psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Gosch says kids younger than 9 or 10 should probably avoid Halloween horror flicks like "Friday the 13th" or "Nightmare on Elm Street" altogether, because youngsters don't understand real versus fantasy.

"So saying to a child, 'oh, it's not real' is not that helpful to them, that doesn't make it better because at that moment it feels real," she said.

Dr. Gosch says that fear could result in nightmares and for some children, even lead to being afraid of going outside or being in a room by themselves.

"It's kind of a problem if children are afraid to go to school or sleep in their own beds on a long term basis," she said.

Dr. Gosch says even older children can experience anxiety from scary movies and even haunted attractions, especially the ones that are heavy on the blood, gore and violence.

If you think your child is ready to watch the scary stuff, here are some tips on how to pick the right thrillers:

1. Watch the movie first to make sure there are no unexpected scary scenes your child can't handle.

2. Pick a film where there is a happy ending, humor or where the bad guy is caught.

3. Haunted attractions should be age appropriate. Look for ones set up just for younger kids that are not adult themed.

"Many these days are very graphic, very violent," said Dr. Gosch. "It is not a good idea to take kids."

Some kids are natural thrill seekers like my son, Nicholas who is a lot braver than his dad!

One more note: a lot of times children could accidentally catch a clip of some of this scary stuff on television, so parents should be aware.

And if your child does experience anxiety, experts say offer them reassurance, and perhaps let them sleep with the light on or even next to you for the night.

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