scary stories for kids

Sometimes kids love hanging out with their monsters

I’ve long been fascinated by horror, as well as the reasons why we are drawn to it. More recently, as I’ve watched my nearly six-year-old daughter, Molly, become drawn to scary stories, I’ve been wondering, why kids seek frightening tales out and what sort of limits they require. This is partly why I wrote The Pinkaboos. I wanted to explore kid’s relationships with scary stories. I believe it is complicated and worthy of exploration in a series.

Molly, like most kids, is a paradox. She is simultaneously the bravest person I know and also one of the biggest chickens I’ve ever met. Last year we started having regular issues at nighttime with various fears and worries, but we’ve seen those issues recede and I believe that’s because we started allowing her to watch scary TV shows and read scary books. Yes, that’s correct.

I noticed that at night she was scared, but during the day she had a growing interest in things that were scary. My initial instinct was to limit all contact with anything but the cuddliest care bear story. But I noticed that she had an innate hunger for spooky stories, so I let her follow her natural inclinations. I’m glad I did.

One of our favorites is Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Too spooky even for some adults, Coraline tells the tale of young girl who finds a door to an alternate reality, where her Other Mother lives. The Other Mother encourages Coraline to stay whenever she visits. At first it’s a mere suggestion, but as the story progresses, so does her pressure as well as scariness. It’s a messed up, beautiful tale and I half expected it to give her nightmares, but it didn’t. Neither did the movie, The Corpse Bride. Neither did any of the scary shows and books she went on to consume.

So for all of those parents out there maniacally Googling, “How to Prevent Nightmares in Children,” please think twice about the oft quoted advice to avoid scary stories at all costs. If a child is scared of these stories, by all means, don’t force it on them, but for the ones who are inexplicably drawn to scary books and TV shows, consider that their natural inclinations might just be how they seek to come to terms with concepts that they are already wrestling with.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a fantastic explanation of why kids love and need scary stories and some great additional reading for bonus marks here and here.

If you’re still looking for some good advice for kids struggling with nightmares, Alice Thompson wrote up a wonderful list of 27 ways to help a child overcome their nightmares. There are plenty of great tips in there, but she misses my favorite; get a Fright and learn how to scare your nightmares away. If that sounds like a method your child might enjoy, be sure to check out our series, The Pinkaboos.


Stay Scary,