In an effort to protect their kids, some parents will keep them away from books, TV shows, and movies that might be too scary. But to a certain extent, scary stories help children learn how to deal with fear in real life.
As Cari Romm at Science of Us explains, scary stories, and even nightmares, are dress rehearsals for real-life fear. And according to sociologist Margee Kerr, scary stories are a helpful tool for developing confidence. Think about it. When you make it through a scary movie, haunted house, or roller coaster ride, you end up feeling accomplished—like you made it through something. This little self-esteem boost carries over and teaches kids that, while things might be scary sometimes, it’s possible to make it through and they’ll be better off for it.
No, you shouldn’t be trying to scare the crap out of your kids, but it’s okay for them to read some ghost stories or get scared of the boogeyman every once in a while. They’ll learn how to cope with fear in a low-stakes setting and be more prepared for the many real obstacles they’ll face in life. Kids develop bravery and confidence, they’re not born with it.