Halloween Horror Nights is a night time haunted event at Universal Studios Florida that spans 25 nights this year and features 8 haunted houses, 6 scare zones, 2 shows and select rides. Parents, this is a warning, this event is not kid friendly. You really don’t want to take your kids, as the event is recommended for those ages 13 and up. However, if you’re like my family you have a smaller one who itches to go and be part of the family fun. In that case what do you do? Do you push it off another year, or do you just bite the bullet and hope for the best? Here’s a few tips on how to handle that situation.
Our 10 year old Madness decided that she was ready to take the plunge at Halloween Horror Nights. She had tried once before with her mother when she was 7. It ended literally in 30 seconds as the actors brought her to tears. For the past three years that night has been lodged in her head as a reminder that, no, she isn’t ready for the scary stuff. But as her older brother (almost 14) Racheal and I are all haunt junkies, and talk about the haunts, it’s worn on her.
A little background on Madness. She’s 10, loves zombie movies and has ridden about five major coasters. She still has a little bit of the “afraid of the dark” anxiety, and hates loud noises. She’s prone to getting “freaked out” by things that go bump in the night, but calms down with a soothing voice. For weeks she’s heard us planning our Halloween Horror Night trips, and she’s also seen the pictures and have seen the videos. She was very much intrigued and decided that after three long years, she was ready to try her hand again at Halloween Horror Nights. We did try to dissuade her and tried repeatedly to tell her that it wasn’t a good idea, but sometimes the best way to let someone learn what it’s all about is to let them experience it for themselves.
So what should you do?
Every kid is different. Some kids will sit there and swear up and down that they’re ready, and others will fight you tooth and nail about going. The kid that says they’re ready could quite possibly end up in tears as the kid that fights going has the time of their lives. So how do you tell if your little one is ready for a big event like Halloween Horror Nights?
- Test the waters-Start out small like showing them pictures and videos of the events. Not the good happy ones either. Kids will be sucked in by how “cool” everything looks. You have to show them pictures of the big scary guys scaring the hell out of the people. Also show the kids videos of the event, where there is plenty of noise and plenty of screaming. If the kid is absolutely not ready, that will be enough. But if they are on the edge, then try something else.
- Start out small-Scary movies are a great way to see if the kids are ready. Nothing too bloody or traumatizing…yet. Start off with the really creepy black and white classics. Then work your way up to something bigger, I found that Poltergeist worked out great. It’s just the right mix of creepy and scary, and if the kid is ready they can watch it with the lights out no problem.
- Tell them the truth-Tell them everything. We told ours about the chainsaw guys, about the dark corners. We also told them about how they pretty much prey on little kids. Here’s the thing about Halloween Horror Nights…they don’t let up. They don’t want kids there, so they will target the child for a scare. And if one doesn’t get the job done, many will. Tell them that while it is fun, it’s also very scary. Also make them realize that it will be in the dark, and they won’t always be able to see what’s coming.
- Go to event yourself first-What better way to know what to expect than to go to a haunted event yourself first? It let’s you know exactly what to expect and gives you a better idea on whether or not your little one can handle it.
- Walk the event in the daylight-Walk all the props and explain to the kids just what they will see and just what will happen. Describe as much as you possibly can.
- Plan an escape route-The great thing about Halloween Horror Nights this year is all the dead space. It’s not great for fans, but it most certainly is great for parents. Know where you can go if things get too scary for the little one. After all, you want laughs not tears.
- Never let them see you scream-This is the big one. Scareactors at these events look for the easy scares. They want the biggest scream possible, so they will target those that look to be easy. This goes for teenage girls, ladies clinging to their boyfriends, big drunk guys and most of all little kids. If your child is scared to death, have them stare straight ahead. Be on the lookout for actors and tell them when you see one and where they’re coming from. Have them say “hi” to the actors, or say something silly to show they aren’t scared. 9 out of 10 times it works and the actors will run towards someone else.
- Start with the scare zones-An easy way to get them in the mood for scares is to walk the scare zones. If they can handle those with relative ease, then maybe work their way up to a house or two.
- Never force-Again, smiles are the goal here, not tears. If the child doesn’t want to do something at the haunt, don’t get mad. You are the adult, and you could have said no to bringing them. Don’t make them do anything that they don’t want to do.
- Encouragement-The kid will most likely be scared. Tell them over and over how great they’re doing and how proud you are that they are facing their fears. Keep heaping praise and words like “Brave” and “Fearless” and “strong”. Kids need that, especially when they are scared.
- Repetition-If the kid likes a scare zone or a house, offer to do it again. If they really like it do it over and over again. You can always come back to an event, but the kid will have only one chance to like or dislike something.