There is ‘good’ scary and ‘bad’ scary. Halloween is usually a good scary – huge furry spiders climbing up houses, trick-or-treating by flashlight, maybe even clouds scudding across a full moon sending spooky shadows in your path. I can’t wait to see the kids dressed up in their costumes. My heart melts at the miniature princesses, ladybugs, firefighters and superheroes. I’m less impressed with the teenagers dressed as….teenagers, I mean, come on, a little effort for the free candy! But even the best ‘scary’ is only good if you keep kids safe. Did you know that four times as many kids are hurt crossing the street on Halloween than on any other night of the year? Click here for some child safety facts about keeping your kid safe on Halloween.
When it comes to keeping kids safe, it’s not always just their physical safety you need to think about. What really sends my blood boiling is the adults who try to impose ‘bad’ scary on little kids, when the little kids (and a lot of the big kids), are genuinely terrified, as in ‘my whole world just turned upside down and will even my omnipotent Mommy and Daddy be able to keep me safe?’ There is one ‘bad’ scary street in my neighborhood that I refuse to step foot on ever again after I saw a 2-year old emotionally traumatized. Teaching child safety isn’t just teaching them how to cross the street safely and checking their candy for tampering, keeping kids safe is also helping them handle ‘good’ scary and ‘bad’ scary emotionally, in all areas of their life. The line between real and pretend is pretty blurry for a young child. Even their beloved teacher dressed up as a witch can be scary unless you take their hand and whisper in their ear, ‘wow, she looks scary, good thing it’s just a costume!‘ When my kids were young I’d make them hold my hand if we passed a house with especially gruesome decorations by telling them I was scared. They’d grip my hands (very tightly) and say ‘don’t worry Mom, it’s just pretend’, so the decorations became a ‘good’ scary over time.
Now, does that mean I try to play down ‘bad’ scary? Nope, if it’s really a matter of life and death I pull out all the stops. When my son was three he asked ‘what happens if I go in the pool without you?‘ I worked my way through some of the milder, less scary options but after a long Q&A we finally got down to brass tacks, ‘if you drown you will never see me again’. That answered the question he was really asking, because death is abstract, not seeing Mom is real. Throughout the conversation I was able to reassure him that if he had Mom with him in the pool he’d be safe. I made it clear that going near the pool without me was ‘bad’ scary, but in a way that didn’t traumatize him about water, because a child who is afraid of the water means they are less safe around water, and that is a big, hairy ‘bad’ scary for any parent.