Halloween is just weeks away and haunted houses are up and running to delight you with frights. A kid’s first trip to a haunted house can be a thrilling way to face their fears, but it can also turn into a nightmare-inducing disaster. It all comes down to whether your little one is ready for the scare. And here’s how you figure it out:
- Know your child’s limits for horror- There’s no magic age for haunted-house-readiness and “kids are ready for different things at different ages,” explains psychologist Dr. Heather Bernstein. She says the best way to tell if yours is up for it is by listening to them. If they show interest and respond well to other seasonal frights, like scarecrows and masks, it’s a good sign that’s how they’ll do in a haunted house.
- Know your haunted house- Haunted houses range from child-friendly to extreme adults-only events, so before you bring your kiddo, know what you’re getting into. Check their website, call and ask about the recommended age and ask other parents what their kids thought about it.
- Share the experience with them- If you decide your kid is up for it, you should probably go with them, especially if they’re little. Haunted houses are more fun when you do it together and can laugh about it afterwards.
- What to do when they have second thoughts at the entrance- Sometimes kids are really excited to visit a haunted house, but when it’s time to go in, they change their minds. Should you give a little push for them to take the risk? Bernstein says if you know it’s something they really want to do and they’ll be disappointed if they don’t, you can coach them by saying something like, “We’ll go in, but we can leave anytime.”
- What to do if it’s just too much- If you or your child misjudge how much fright they can handle and your kid freaks out, don’t panic. They may have a few nightmares, but you can help them deal with their fear. Going back in the daylight to see it or meeting the actors involved can help them see that it’s all just pretend and that they were never really in danger. Don’t downplay their feelings by saying, “It wasn’t that scary, you’re being ridiculous.” And try to remember that from their perspective it really was THAT scary.