My 11yo daugher A- had a really hard time going to sleep last night because she had been reading a fairly scary book (well, a fairly innocuous book with a scary passage. I mean, how scary can a book about unicorns be?) and was afraid she’d have bad dreams.
This lead me to wonder about something: when should we encourage our children to do things that are scary and might stimulate nightmares and when should we discourage them instead?
So far, Linda and I have held the line on the Harry Potter series, for example. A- has read The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, but we’ve stopped her from proceeding to book #3, The Prisoner of Azkaban because I believe it’s really with this third book that the series takes a turn for the dark side, the more malevolent scenes and storylines.
On the one hand, I feel like we as adults know more and can accurately assess what our children are ready to handle or not, but on the other hand, a few nightmares are inevitable anyway and if she’s interested in reading scary stuff, shouldn’t we just let her read it and “get through” the consequences of the frightening material?
I had lunch with A- and three of her 11yo buddies yesterday (a surprise party, don’tcha know) and it was very interesting to ask them about whether they’d read the Harry Potter series. One had read all seven books and another hadn’t even read the first title, though she had seen the first two movies.
Clearly, then, parents in our community are paying attention to the books and movies their children watch (one girl, 11, had only ever seen three movies in her life, Mathilda, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins, while another had undoubtedly seen hundreds of different titles. A- is somewhere in the middle and has probably seen about 35 different movies at this point in her life, but never once in a movie theater).
Since you’re reading this, I bet you pay attention to the media your children experience too, so tell me, dear reader, how do you decide what they’re ready for, and how often do you let them — or encourage them — to cross the line just a bit and challenge themselves with something harder, more complicated, or more frightening than they usually enjoy?
Until last night, I was ready for A- to move to the third Harry Potter book, where we meet Harry’s godfather Sirius Black and learn about the soul-sucking Azkaban prison, but after last night, I’m just not quite sure…
Of course, to mitigate this all, when I got up this morning, A- was busy reading the book that had the scary section, while grinning at me and explaining how she’d “finished the scary part and the book’s great now!”