How to Prepare Your Child For the Zombie Apocalypse
Parents: About the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse…
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, zombies are coming. And zombies eat brains.
I overheard my seven-year-old son Erik talking to his twin brother about “The Zombie Apocalypse.” Depending on whom you speak with, the question is not if this is going to happen, but when.
Once again I’m discussing the unlikely occurrence of a “zombie apocalypse” with a very concerned boy #ZombiesEatBrains
My twin boys were discussing strategies about how they will escape when the zombies rise up. For now, they can play out their exit strategies via Minecraft. All the more reason to play, considering that they will need to have practiced and be prepared for the inevitable, when it occurs.
While to most parents, this fear is a humourous footnote to many kids’ childhoods, the reality is that for these kids, the struggle is real. There’s a palpable fear of not only zombies, but so many more scary things that go bump in the night…and the day as well.
Being fearful is not a new thing. For millennia, children have rushed to their parents’ sides, jumped under the covers in their parents’ beds and bemoaned their fears and anxieties in the comfort of their parents’ laps, all in an effort to calm their frazzled nerves.
Things that go bump in the night.
Monsters in closets and under beds.
The list is exhaustive.
Yet these standard indicators of childhood fears seem quaint nowadays, in light of the recent and frequent discussions about much more scary events.
The thought of having one’s grey matter snarfed back by the dead who have come back to life is a tad scary, especially for an elementary school child (though there are many adults who swear that the Zombie Apocalypse will be occurring in just a matter of time, thanks to the success of TV shows like The Walking Dead).
The Walking Dead
Now, while I continue on this course of discussion with my tongue firmly planted in cheek, the crux of the matter should not be lost on those who grapple with the reality of the world in which we live.
Every day, we’re ambushed with not-so-pleasant news that reminds us that life is a gift and that our mortality is based on the luck of the draw. So many meet an unfortunate demise and “there but for the grace of god go I” we think as we read the daily news, or hear about the most recent atrocity carried out domestically or locally.
Now, imagine being a child and having to process the stark realities of life in today’s world.
What is Behind Kids’ Fears of a Zombie Apocalypse?
I’ve written about this topic before, specifically in a post called “The News is Scaring My Kid! Top 5 Tips For Parents” In this post, parents are provided with simple tips and advice about how they can assuage their kids’ fears about world events. What it doesn’t address, however, are the reasons why kids are so vulnerable to what they perceive as fearful events (such as zombies), as realizing the backstory behind their feelings is always more complex and involved than many of us parents ever want to admit.
1) The realization that their parents can’t always protect them
Key to our children’s fears about zombies or otherwise, is the realization that despite what they thought for many years, the reality is that their parents can’t always protect them. Think about it: from the day they were born, they were told and were shown that their parents were everything to them, and would do anything and everything to keep them safe. While that reality continued as they grew, it also slowly became very clear that their parents - though their intentions were honourable - could not always do what needed to be done to ward off scary people, creatures, situations or events. The reality of this truth is fuel for the fire burning in children’s minds, adding to their already existing fears.
2) A loss of control over their environment
It goes to follow that since realizing that their parents can’t protect them, children move on to the logical conclusion about their relative safety in a world where they may be expected to fend for themselves at some point. As our children mature, they realize that they are given more and more responsibility by their parents. First, it may be something as simple as picking out their own clothes; later, it will involve walking to and from school alone. In the latter scenario, the threat of the outside world, whether it’s a suspicious stranger or worse, becomes very real. Home is where the hearth is - and safety as well - and, to a child, the outside world is full of unknowns and, potentially, threats.
3) The outside world is harsh
It’s a big, bad world out there and kids slowly come to this realization as they grow. Whether it’s through the latest news, updates on the playground or online, they find out what’s going on in the world and, it scares them. Couple this fact with points #1 and #2 and you have all of the ingredients required to raise the anxiety level of a child well past acceptable levels. In light of these realities, is it any surprise that kids are feeling a tad jumpy these days?
So back to questions about the Zombie Apocalypse, which is, after all first and foremost on the minds of many kids these days.
If you’re wondering what to do and how to answer the questions about how your family will survive the impending event, consider doing the following:
- Acknowledge Your Child’s Fears - The struggle is real. It really is, especially for your elementary-school child who has seen and heard about the coming Zombie threat through the media. They may not be watching The Walking Dead, but they are well aware of the culture that surrounds them, whether it’s via television, online or elsewhere. Though the uprising may seem a unlikely as Santa Claus travelling around the world in a single evening, it remains a clear and valid possibility to your little one. As with any situation that causes distress to your child, do what you do best: provide comfort and acknowledgement to your child and let them know that regardless of what the threat is that is causing them grief, you will be there to care for them, no matter what.
- Explain That Zombies Aren’t Real - As interesting as it may be to imagine an alternate world that is overrun by zombies, it’s important to remember that these entities don’t exist. Zombies have become particularly popular in recent culture, so it’s no surprise that the threat of encountering one in the course of a child’s day-to-day life is very real to many frightened children.
- Empower Them Through Scenarios and Action - This might be a great time to discuss real-life scenarios, and how your child can help in a real emergency. In the case of irrational childhood fears, the ability for your child to take back their anxieties and replace them with empowerment scenarios will go a long way towards helping them overcome this fixation. Fear of the Zombie Apocalypse is a good opportunity to talk to your child about how everyday life may sometimes present challenges and scary situations, and how your son or daughter has the power within them to manage many of these situations. Have you gone through an annual fire drill or emergency planning scenario with the family? If not, now may be the time to do so. Showing your child that she has the power to positively affect her well-being is a great tool to thwart any fears of zombies or otherwise.
**UPDATE**My kids are battling zombies daily over on YouTube. If you’re interested in seeing them battle these creatures via Minecraft, head over to their channel, The Explorers of Gaming and subscribe 🙂