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(Scary) Movie Night: 3 Tips to Keep Your Kids from Freaking Out
PHOTO BY scareencap from dreams.com
  • They’re here! And by “they,” we mean the inevitable freak-outs that come when a kid sees his first horror flick. Need a recovery plan? We asked for tips from educational psychologist Charlotte Reznick Ph.D., author of The Power of Your Child’s Imagination.

    Give the third degree...casually.
    To gauge how your kid feels about what he just saw and assist him in processing his emotions, pose a few innocuous questions. Try something like “Oh, wow, you saw A Nightmare on Elm Street? That was really something, huh?” Don’t say it  was scary; there’s a chance your child wasn’t bothered, and bringing up fear could change that. If your kid responds with “It was just awful!” use open-ended follow-ups to figure out exactly why. One option: “Do you feel worried, scared, or mad?” You might assume he is scared, but horror films can elicit a range of emotions, from anger at the bad guys to worry that similar events will happen in real life. Validating the way your child feels is crucial to moving on to a solution, so be sure to say, “I completely get why you’re upset.” Once your child realizes his feelings are totally normal, it will be easier for him to separate the film’s chilling fantasy from his own G-rated reality.

    Go behind the scenes.
    Drive home the understanding that this was a movie, not real life. Use actor interviews and bonus material from the DVD or YouTube to reveal how the film was made. Then, let your kid play screenwriter: Pull out the art supplies and encourage her to draw or write her preferred ending. Too much blood and guts? Not enough happy parts? Letting kids change the plotline—“Imagine if Rosemary got help from a doctor and gave birth to a healthy baby!”—gives them control over their long-term memory of the film, and can make that memory more peaceful.


    Sweeten her dreams.
    You’re almost in the clear; now you just have to ward off nightmares. Start the bedtime routine with some distracting fun, like an extra storybook or a longer-than-average sing-along. When it’s time to nod off, have your child lie in bed and take deep, full belly breaths. Then ask her to close her eyes and imagine what she’d like to dream about—say, scaling walls with SpiderMan or singing with Frozen's Elsa. (If she later awakens from a nightmare anyway, try the deep breathing again and stay with her until she falls back to sleep.) Be warned that the monsters may not move out from under the bed overnight; you may have to use these tactics a few evenings in a row. Talk to your pediatrician if a week passes and your child still feels anxious or struggles with sleep.

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    Not-so-scary movies
    Here are a few Halloween flicks your kids can actually enjoy!

    Casper (1995)
    The iconic cartoon character comes to life in this heartwarming tale of ghost-meets-girl.

    Monsters, Inc. (2001)
    Monster friends Sully and Mike get the scare (and adventure!) of their lives when little Boo visits from the human world.

    Hocus Pocus (1993)
    A boy accidentally frees three evil witches from the Salem trials. Chaos and comedy ensue!

    Halloweentown (1998)
    After finding out that she’s a witch, a young girl helps save her town from supernatural beings.

    The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
    Jack Skellington, a.k.a. the “King of Halloween,” findshimself in Christmas Town and tries his hand at that holiday instead.

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    This story originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine. 
    * Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.

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