Yes, that's right, my husband and I thought the movie would be ok for our 4 year old. After-all, it's got a kid as Indie's helper, they ride elephants, eat bugs and eyeball soup, it has that roller coaster type chase near the end-all great fun for kids. But non of it compares with the horror of the "scary guy" pulling a beating heart out of a scared man who was then lowered into fire and burned alive. Sounds even worse when I re-read it.
Both my husband and I seem to have forgotten just HOW scary that part was.
We watch a show called Face-Off, where professional movie make-up people compete for prizes. They show all the stages of make-up application, turning young models into elderly people, or into animals, etc. We talk to our boys about masks and Halloween, and when we see scary things on tv it has helped to explain that things we see aren't always "real". So has Scooby-Doo, it's always a guy in a mask.
But this time it was different. My 6 year old understood it was make-up, he even came up with a theory about how the movie people did it (a balloon covered in ketchup with a long straw that someone blew air into, making the fake heart beat). But even this couldn't undo the fear our youngest now has about bodies opening and hearts beating while the guy was still alive. All I can think now is "I hope he isn't scarred for life!"
What can we do to help him? As someone who experiences anxiety, I am in a good position to give him tools to settle his anxieties. Lot's of hugs, a "lucky charm" to keep bad thoughts away, and a mantra "it's not real" to use when he gets scared of the "movie I his head".
From this mistake I have learned that I need to be more aware of how children perceive the world at different ages. Yeah, it's hard to find a-non cartoon movie for the whole family to agree on, but it's harder to watch your child battle with unseen fears and know you are helpless against his active imagination.
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