The Horror of Halloween

This first half term back at school has flown by! I can’t believe we are now approaching the end of October, with many different festivals on the cusp of being celebrated. Over the next few months some people will be celebrating Bonfire Night, Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas to name a few. And in case you were wondering, there are only eight Saturdays left until Christmas!

Halloween takes place this week and, I feel, this is one of the most controversial festivals that gets celebrated in this country. From the rise of ‘killer clowns’ to the destruction of people’s personal property during ‘trick or treating’, there are many people who wish that it was not celebrated.

As I child I was not allowed to go out ‘trick or treating’ or dress up, but I could decorate a pumpkin and sit beside the front door waiting for visitors to our house. I did feel like I missed out and always wanted to take part in the fun of collecting sweets and treats. Once I had my own children, it was my fantastic childminder who taught me the local custom she followed, that you only call at houses that are decorated or have a pumpkin by the door, so you know that you are not disturbing anyone who does not wish to celebrate too. This is a difficult time of year for the elderly, or for anyone who lives alone, not knowing who is at your door on a dark night. The majority of children and teenagers, really are simply out for the treats and do not wish harm on anyone, but unfortunately a few do spoil it for everyone else. It is important that safety rules are followed to ensure everyone out and about can have a good time.

Halloween seems to be the only acceptable time of the year that those who love the horror of zombies, vampires, ghosts etc are allowed to fully embrace their passion. Even those who are usually scared of movies and stories with elements of fear, take to the streets dressed up in characters brought from the imagination. It can often be a worry for parents when their children take a fascination in the macabre of horror and things that go bump in the night, but should they be?

Horror, as a genre, has been around for hundreds of years. Both Frankenstein and Dracula were stories written in the 19th century, but this type of story seems to have vanished within schools. I think the worry of offending or scaring anyone has taken away the suspense and intrigue that the horror genre can bring. The reaction that horror can give to some children, is the same as what rollercoasters do to others. Some say that it is the survival instinct that kicks in – fight, flight or freeze – which gives the appeal to those who like horror. It sends chemicals around your body, giving your body a response that you may either love or hate. The notion of being the ‘survivor’ for some, beating the threat, showing how you can overcome such terrible adversity gives individual’s the want for coping with scary situations.

If your child likes the idea of being scared, you can use this genre of imagination to help them achieve academically. Use their imagination to write stories and create monster pictures. Don’t be afraid to put their fascinations to good use, but make sure you follow their lead. The last thing you want is to add anything too frightening for them, and push the theme to be too adult like. There is a fine line between what is ‘good’ scary and ‘bad’ scary. Think about the story of Hansel and Gretel. Now, that’s a scary story, classed as ‘suitable for children’, that has been told for many generations of young children as a Fairy Story! For one child this could really excite them, the suspense of the witch capturing the children, but for another child it could be too scary for them. I remember watching Watership Down as a young child, and that gave me nightmares!

All children have their limits and it is important for children to know the line between real and imaginary too. Play has its own rules, and as long as everyone who is in that play is happy playing, then it is not doing any harm. A group of children role playing a vampire catching children while they are asleep in their beds, does not mean that they are going to grow up wanting to be a vampire. Playing can help children’s understanding of life and is an important part of any child’s development. Even as adults, we should and do enjoying playing. Look at all the celebrities of Strictly Come Dancing this week dressed up as Halloween characters. Children see and want to copy adults too, so give them the opportunity to explore this ‘darker’ side, if they want too. As with everything in life, it’s about choice. Not everyone is going to like horror, but just because your child does, it doesn’t mean he/she is going to become the next mass murderer!

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Covering: Cornwall and West Devon