How to help your child when they’re scared by tv programmes and films

Before I had my children I used to find it quite funny when a warning came up saying that a film featured ‘mild peril’.  It just always sounded a little silly to me.

Now though, I really appreciate it.

See, Rhys is a really sensitive child.  He does not like anything with the slightest bit of peril, or threat. He watched Moana for the first time with Steve, and kept asking him to turn it off, and constantly looked for reassurance that the characters would be ok.

In recent weeks he’s asked me to turn off ‘Grandpa in my pocket’, ‘Sofia the first’ and ‘Peter rabbit’, amongst other things.  Not programmes that are obviously scary at all.  But it seems that even the slightest hint of characters being in danger or things going wrong is enough to make Rhys feel really uneasy.

If you have a child who, like Rhys, seems to be easily scared by things they see on tv, here are some ideas of how to help them.


  • Respect their feelings, don’t belittle them

When your child asks you to turn off something as seemingly benign as Sofia the first, your first instinct can be to tell them not to be silly, and that there’s nothing to be scared of.  But it’s so important to fight that urge and respect that, for them, the fear is very real.

Telling them they’re being silly or that they need to grow up as there’s nothing to be scared of won’t do anything to reduce their feelings of fear.  What it might do though is make them feel that they need to hide their fear from you in the future.

If they say they’re scared by something they’re watching, then reassure them that you will respect their feelings and turn it off if they really are scared.


  • Watch with them

If your child is watching something and they tell you it is scaring them, then stop and sit down to watch it with them.

Talk them through what is happening, and ask them what it is about the situation that is making them feel uneasy.  You might find that talking about it helps to lessen their fear.  It can also help to let them see that you’re not scared by what is happening.


  • Remember that children don’t care about spoilers

As adults we are so worried about spoilers, when it comes to our favourite tv programmes.  I mean, I got up in the middle of the night to watch the new episodes of Game of Thrones last year so that I could happily go online the next day and not have to worry about spoilers!

Children though, couldn’t care less about spoilers.

Think about it, they’ll happily watch the same film 4 times in a day, and not be bothered in the slightest about the fact that they know exactly what is going to happen.

So if you know how the scary situation will resolve itself in the programme or film they’re watching, then go ahead and tell them.  Knowing that things will work out ok might be enough for them to get past their fear.


  • Look at ratings and guidelines

This is where the ‘mild peril’ warning comes in really handy.

If you’re looking for a film to watch with your child then check what rating it’s been given and look out for any warnings about ‘mild peril’ or ‘mild threat’.  Make sure you’re putting on a film that has been rated as suitable for your child’s age, and keep in mind the sorts of things that your child tends to find scary.

Another thing to think about is trying to find something to watch that has main characters that are confident and shown to be managing their own fear.  There’s been research carried out that found that confident main characters help children to feel thrilled by scenes of danger and peril, rather than feel scared by them.


My approach with Rhys at the moment is to try and get him to explain to me what it is about what he’s watching that is scaring him.  I try to reassure him that it is ok to feel scared, but that things will work out for the characters in the end.  If after that he is still feeling uneasy and asking for me to change the channel then I’ll respect that and put something else on.

Does your child tend to get easily scared by things they see on tv?  How do you normally handle the situation?


Cuddle Fairy
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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