"That's Too Scary for You"

Thursday, June 2, 2016

MEREDITH GARY
Co-director, Downtown Little School (Review 2009)

How do children under five process frightening images differently from an older child or adult?

Children under five do not understand the difference between real and pretend. This is hard for adults to imagine, especially because children this age do know how to pretend; they can “feed” a baby doll, they can pretend a row of chairs is a “train.” However, when children do these pretend things, the games feel real. If you, with a straight face, tell a young child that the “train” he is sitting on is on fire, he may be genuinely afraid. If you spank a baby doll in anger, a child may feel as shocked and afraid as if he had seen you do it to a real baby. If you put on a scary mask, a young child will not be completely sure that beneath the mask you are still you, that is until you take it off.

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THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE 2009 EDITION OF THE REVIEW
© 2009 PARENTS LEAGUE OF NEW YORK