• How Your Child Benefits When You Give Her a Scare (It's Fun, Too!)

    Let your child watch or read age-appropriate scary stories and movies. It's all good!
    by Rachel Perez .
How Your Child Benefits When You Give Her a Scare (It's Fun, Too!)
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  • There are parents who steer their kids away from scary costumes with the notion they may get scarred for life. But a scare or two, from reading scary stories or donning costumes to watching age-appropriate horror movie, may not hurt your toddler development and that feeling of fear may actually benefit them a whole lot.

    In an interview with The Atlanticsociologist and "scare specialist" Margee Kerr, Ph.D., a professor at the Robert Morris University and Chatham University, says fear can be a helpful tool to learn essential life skills and enjoy the experience.

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    Why feeling scared is good for the brain

    Based on video from the TED-Ed YouTube channel, Dr. Kerr explains how fear can be beneficial in shaping your kids' brains and how it can help her in the future.

    It can feel good

    Fear triggers a human body's fight-or-flight response and prepares it for danger, releasing hormones, automatically turning on its survival mode on, and redistributing energy while protecting it from feeling pain. This feeling of no-pain-high-energy combo is similar to feeling excited and happy because our brain knows we're not in any real danger.

    It can boost self-esteem

    Imagine going through a haunted house or just getting off a roller-coaster ride unscathed. The experience gives the child a feeling of accomplishment. Even if we know we're not really in any danger, the fear feels real, and so the satisfaction and accomplishment also feel real.

    It can bring people together

    When you see your friends scream and laugh, you feel compelled to do the same because there's a part of your brain that wants to make sense of what your friends are experiencing, and you want to feel it even if you're just watching them. These moments strengthen your bond further.

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    It's okay for kids to feel scared, too

    Lawrence Sipe, Ph.D., a professor of children's literature at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, told Parents scary tales actually serve as rehearsals for actual real-life scary situations that the kids may encounter.

    It makes sense when you think about fairy tales about kids getting lost in the woods or dying parents of princesses. Young kids can already project themselves into characters they relate to and identify with. With scary stories, kids may empathize with the hero or heroine, which may help them overcome upsetting emotions.

    “The world can be a scary place — children will get into situations where they’re told off by teachers, or fall out with friends. Knowing how to confront fear is a good thing," psychologist Emma Kenny told the Guardian. It helps forge resilience, she added.

    Of course, you have to be careful and make sure that you don't overdo it. Like adults, kids may have different takes on what is super scary and what's just okay. Use it as an opportunity to help find out what your kids fear and help him overcome it. 

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