It's October and we cannot escape the media's scary Halloween onslaught. Once again, Freddy, Jason, and Michael are Chainsaw-ing their way down Elm Street on Halloween. All this slashing flesh and witchie stuff is profitable for the media and fun for all unless, of course, you have a 3-6 year old at home with no critical reasoning skills whatsoever. Then, the media blood-letting can be a problem for the little puddlings and adults. For kids, Halloween can mean nightmares and imagined horrors lurking in bedroom shadows. For parents, or guardians, it often means sleep deprivation. What do you do at 2 a.m. when they come padding into your room, fluffy nunny held close, scared out their wits because there's a witch/goblin/creature in the closet or under their bed? Your parental job description is well established here: calm their very real fears, get them back to peaceful sleep and get yourself back on the nod. Since this usually happens during your deepest REM sleep cycle, the cognitive approach is, "Sweetie, there's no such things as witches," as you snuggle and comfort them back to their bed. But this is not their reality. There are witches. So you must deal with their reality, not yours.. The alternative is to let them crawl into your bed but this strategy has its detractors and you still haven't eliminated the witch-in-the-closet as a fear source.
Here are two strategies that have proven most successful with parents who understand the concept of creating a fiction to combat a fiction or, in other words, lying to the little ones.
The first line of defense is...
Monster Spray. The only pre-requisite to this maneuver is that the child is unable to read yet.
Step 1) Get a can of a common household air freshener spray like a Glade, Airwick, or Oust. Even though they can't read, it helps to tape a picture on the can of a monster with a slash mark through it.
Step 2) Explain to the child that this is special Monster Spray as you make a show of spritzing the offending area, closet, under bed, etc. The scent doesn't matter here, but if you have different monsters to deal with - witches, goblins, creatures, you can assign specific odors for each one - but this is only recommended for people who have no lives. Caution: do not claim the spray gets rid of monsters forever. Forever is too ambiguous. Make it a one-night solution giving the little ones the power to call in the air-strike spray when needed. Oh, and you are the sole keeper of Monster Spray.
The second strategy is recommended when the Monster Spray ploy has run its course, or the child is beginning to read. This is.......
The Monster Hot-Line. All it requires is a phone and your imagination.
Step 1) This technique is employed just before bedtime. With the pajama-clad child listening to you only, dial up the Monster Hot-line.
Step 2) Your end of the call should sound something like, "Hi, is this the (Fill in) Monster/Witch/Creature) Hot-line?" Pause. "Good, I'm calling to get the witch forecast for our area. Are there are any witches predicted for tonight?" Longer pause as you put your best listening face on. A few, "uhuhs, yes, uhuhs" helps. Throw in a "where?" End on a positive note, "Great.....Yes, well, thank you so much. Have a goodnight..... You, too" This should be a toll-free call. Using a credit card is not recommended. Besides, the way it's going, the banks will send one to your child by third grade anyway, then they can pay for the call themselves.
Step 3) In order for the Monster Hot-Line to be effective, your report to the child must be plausible. When you tell them there are no witches in the neighborhood tonight, it is recommended that you add a touch of reality by telling them a flurry of witches is expected but they're very far away, preferably on the other side of the country. Again, it's a one-time only call which is repeated only at the child's behest giving them some control in the whole enterprise.
If you believe that creating a fiction to combat a fiction is wrong, these strategies are not for you. But keep in mind that it's not always about what's right, just and real. Whether Halloween, the movies, or so-called Reality TV, perception is reality. Could that be the real scare?