Q: I have a 6-year-old son, and he is very fearful of children’s television. For instance, when his younger sisters watch Winnie The Pooh and the bees start chasing Pooh Bear, my son screams in terror and runs out of the room. This does not scare his two younger sisters at all. Do you have any ideas on how to overcome this or cope with it? Should I not let his younger sisters watch children’s television because he has this issue?
~ Worried about Winnie in Boiling Springs, SC
A: Dear Worried about Winnie,
Many families with multiple children face this dilemma—it’s hard enough to choose the right media material and time for one child, let alone for several of different ages.
The challenge is that, although we use media together, but we experience media individually. That’s why even though age (and society’s expectations for age and gender) can influence how your different children respond to media, their individual personalities play an even more powerful role. In this case, your son may be more sensitive to Pooh’s fear, while your daughters may be more attuned to the excitement of Pooh’s adventure. Both reactions are normal.
Remember that none of your children see this show they way you do —even those whose reactions appear closer to what you would expect. Bees chasing Pooh represent a relatively complex mix of threat, physical humor, and nature’s reality, and your life experience and brain development let you make sense out of that in a way that your children cannot. Watch your children as they use media, and use what you learn to choose content that everyone can enjoy and share.
When your son gets scared, validate his feelings. Talk through what scares him while hugging and comforting him, assuring him of his safety. Let all your children know that it is okay to be scared when they don’t understand or feel out of control of a situation—trusting their instincts and leaving a situation that feels scary is how they keep themselves safe. In time, you can help your son expand his understanding of bees (and other scary things) through books, educational websites, or children’s museums with working beehives. As your children expand what they know, they will become more confident, seeing adventure and fun where they once saw fear.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,