Halloween party and children’s fears

Every day children are fighting with their own shadows and for this reason many people think is useful to avoid other difficulties to them, making children growing up in a sweetened world without confrontation with fear. In some cases parents also demonize folk tales that speak of bad, orcs or monstrous characters that could increase the sense of insecurity and anxiety of children. Over the years many stories, considered too sad and bloody, have even been rewritten and transformed into colorful and sparkling tales where the characters have happy families and happy lives.

Fairy tales, however, are a metaphor of life and how can be denied to a child that death exists, as well as pain and difficult times to overcome?

Actually fear is a primary emotion and probably has a self-protective function which is useful to the growth of the child, because it activates in him behaviors that defend it from potential dangers: for example, if a child would not be afraid of the dark would not be held back by walk in unsafe and dark places, risking easily to get hurt.

The various fears of children, during their growth, are potentially infinite and depend largely on individual histories, but there are a number of fears that may be considered typical of developmental age (Quadrio Aristarchi, Puggelli, 2006): separation, darkness, death, abandonment, snakes, ghosts, monsters, doctor, etc. (To learn more we recommend the article: Quali sono le paure dei bambini …)

Precisely for this reason it is essential that a parent will help the child to recognize and understand their fears helping him to externalize and to overcome them. It is also important to understand when, behind some fears, are hiding real needs and requests for help.

Many times the fears of the children also end up to distress parents and often these are the ones that feed them through the mechanism called “emotional contagion.”

If parents are frightened, the child will be much more scared because he learns and reinforces that stimulous is really dangerous; if parents minimize the events on the contrary help him to frame the fact into perspective (Quadrio Aristarchi, Puggelli, 2006).

The storytelling of the fairy tales is definitely one of the most effective among the various methods recommended by child psychologists to help children deal with their fears.

The famous psychologist Bruno Bettelheim argued that telling scary stories to children was important because it helped them to exorcise the anguish and to disclose it externally.

Through stories children learn to live the strongest emotions in a secure manner, without being directly involved, and enjoying the reassuring proximity of a parent. At the same time they learn that, as in fairy tales the heroes get the kingdom and the happiness, even in real life you can overcome adversity with strength, intelligence and courage.

In almost all the folk tales we find some common elements as fear, courage, defeat of the danger, happy ending.

Bad characters in folktales embodies precisely the danger that will be defeated by the bravery and intelligence. Stories always have a happy ending and all the good characters are stronger and happier than before.

“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

~ G. K. Chesterton, writer