Creative costumes, spooky decorations and too much candy are part of the fun of Halloween that most kids are fully on board with. For some families, scary movies are also a Halloween staple. Your child may beg you to watch what all his friends are viewing. So how do you decide whether a movie is appropriate for your child or too scary?
It’s hard to provide hard and fast rules because all kids are different. What’s most important is that you know your child’s limits and respect them. And it goes without saying that when choosing a movie for the entire family, what’s safe viewing for the youngest child in the room should guide the decision.
General movie guidelines:
- If your child is under the age of 7. consider not exposing them to any movie that will purposely scare them. Even if they don’t understand what’s going on, seeing violence can have an emotional impact.
- From 7 to 10 years old, light spookiness is usually OK. Scooby-doo, movies, Monsters Inc and Monster House are popular in this age group.
- After age 10, many children enjoy scarier movies but pay attention to the rating. R-rated movies are not just more intense, but they often portray risky and irresponsible behavior as normal.
- Avoid letting your child see realistic “blood, guts and gore” until age 16 or older.
- Look for movies with humor, like Ghostbusters or Hotel Transylvania.
- Children at most ages are often scared of the dark, being alone, being separated from their parents and being injured. So think beyond monsters and slasher themes when considering what’s appropriate for your child.
When you’ve settled on a spooky movie:
- Consider previewing it first to make sure it’s OK for your child.
- Watch the movie during the day. Start it early enough that it’s not time for bed immediately after it’s over. Let the emotion of it fade a bit before lights-out.
- If children want to close their eyes, cover their ears, or leave the room, that’s a sign that it’s too scary. But don’t assume all is well just because they’re watching silently. A common reaction to fear is to freeze. Pay attention to how your child is responding.
- If your child is afraid, turn the movie off (or leave the theater). Let them know they are safe and that nothing is going to happen to them.
- Talk about the movie once it’s over to answer questions or get a sense of whether there’s any issues.
Watching scary movies can be good family fun. Taking step beforehand can make the experience a positive one, letting kids have thrills in a safe environment!