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I have a ten year old child who gets spooked to tears to sleep in his room alone because another child at school told him a nonsense story about Slender Man. The child added a few bits to the myth, stating that Slender Man:

  1. Collects children for his cave
  2. Can teleport

I also asked my child what the reason for collecting children would be, etc., etc.

I explained that teleportation has no basis in known physics (but creating a copy of a person from one location and creating a separate copy of that person elsewhere is possible but the technology is not there)

However, irrespective of which explanations I choose, he is afraid to sleep alone.

Any ideas?

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Slender Man is just another villain like Ice Man or Fire Man. Have your child play or watch you play Megaman on the original NES and then tell him that you defeated Slender Man and absorbed his powers. –  Kalamane Jul 25 '12 at 14:37

7 Answers 7

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Children are different.

(1) Your child might have a lively imagination. This is a wonderful gift, but it has the drawback that he can vividly imagine all kinds of evil that might befall him, and these imaginations will impress and influence him deeply. Try to help your child to see the positive aspects of his gifts (he can become an inventor or artist or scientist) and simply help him with his fears by providing him with what he needs to alleviate them. Ask him, what would help him, and give it to him without making a big deal out of it. It will be a passing phase, and a few months later he will stop needing to fall asleep near you or whatever it is that he wants.

(2) Your child might be highly sensitive. This is a mixed blessing. Google it and read up on it. Again, try and be patient and understand (and help your child understand) his gift and the positive aspects of it. Great things await him, if you help him instead of making his disposition a problem.

(3) Apart from physiological and cognitive causes (imagination, sensitivity), fear is usually the result of insecurity. Why does the other boy not fear the Slender Man? Because that child is secure in his place in the world. Children that are much afraid, often have lost a parent or have had to live with the (real or imagined) fear of losing a parent. This is often the case when the parents had a stressful time during the childs early months and years. There do not have to be any thoughts of divorce, but the child might interpret the tensions and intense emotions (even if suppressed) to mean that some fundamental change is going to happen. It is also often the case, if children are forced to endure lack of physical contact. Children that are breast fed one or two years are (on average) significantly less afraid than children that are bottle fed from birth. Children that are carried instead of laid in a buggy, children that are allowed to sleep in the parent's bed instead of being forced to cry in their own rooms etc. have gained more trust in the world and are less afraid. This is a cultural phenomenon, because breastfeeding, baby slings, and sleeping in the parent's bed are out of fashion in the Western world, and we bring up a whole population of insecure children. Strangely enough it is often the children of poorer families that are more confident, because they sleep in the same bed as their siblings and the parents have no money to buy artificial milk.

Think about the development of your child from birth until his current fear and try to be honest to yourself about how you might have helped him to become afraid of the world instead of giving him the basic security that you are always there to protect him. You did the best you could at that time, so don't feel guilty, but just try to understand your part of what made him who he is, and then allow yourself to try and give him the best you can at this moment again.

(4) Stop worrying, because you will only worry your child. Are you a happy carefee person (and are the other members of your family), or are you afraid of losing your job / being mugged on your way home from the cinema / that your mother will die of the cancer that has been found last month? Often one family member will feel the emotions that another family member suppresses. Try and get rid of the real fears that your family has to face, and the imaginary fears of your child might vanish with them.

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A lot of the connections in the third section are questionable in my opinion. Of my three breast-fed children who rode in baby slings and often co-slept, one is easily frightened, one never admits fear, and one is somewhere in between. Too much generalizing like that can be offensive and lose the message you're trying to get across. –  Erica 10 hours ago

These kind of stories are meant to scare children - the child collector from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the wicked witch, Grimm fairy tales, Doctor Who - we have a rich history of scary stories for kids.

The problem isn't the being scared - it's actually a good healthy part of growing up. The thing to do is not try to persuade your child that they shouldn't be scared (because they are scared - there's no getting around that)

I know a wide range of people who put great faith in the protective powers of pulling the duvet/sheets up over the head to protect from all monsters at night, and I seem to recall having to avoid the squeaky stairs myself when going upstairs in the dark to avoid monsters as a young child.

I think your talking with your child about the rational issues with this story are an excellent start point, but additionally talk with your child about why scary stories are fun, how the being scared is exciting, but that knowing they have safety in the house with their parents makes it okay. Make sure they know that you are a protector who can prevent the Slender Man's teleportation into your home.

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+1 - I'm warming to this –  Carnotaurus Jul 14 '12 at 10:54
1  
Perhaps a pet stuffed tiger might help. calvinandhobbesagain.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/… –  Nat Jul 19 '12 at 1:07
    
That's me, 6-7 years old, hiding behind the sofa, listening to the Doctor Who theme tune (that alone gave me the willies!) –  Benjol Dec 4 '12 at 15:01

I have to agree with Rory. I am 31 years old and I cannot watch horror films (seriously, the last horror film I watched was Thirteen Ghosts which many horror enthusiasts assure me is one of the absolute worst horror films ever made, but after I watched that movie I swore off of them altogether because I didn't sleep for days--and I was probably 25 when I watched that movie!). I have always had a vivid imagination, and it doesn't matter that I can rationalize to myself all the reasons that the movie or story is impractical and irrational. I will lie awake in bed thinking about it.

I think it's probably a healthy sign that your child has a vivid enough imagination that this story has made that kind of impact on him. It at least means that he is able to imagine these things happening.

When I was a child and afraid of scary stories I'd heard, the one thing that calmed me down was to hear from my parents that there was nothing in our house that was going to hurt me, and they wouldn't let anything hurt me. I can't explain it, but it really helped make me feel better.

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Your child's fears are not rational, so I'm guessing that that is why rational explanations aren't helping as much as you'd like. I watched Hellraiser when I was in my twenties and still feel like a bloody hand might come up through my mattress and pull me down to Hell, even though I know that this can't happen.

The fact that your child is scared and embellishing on this story of his own accord shows that he has a powerful imagination. Try making it work for him. First, reassure him that Slender Man is fiction, but then ask him how a fictional hero could defeat Slender Man. Help your child figure out how to keep the bad guy at bay, and that will go a long way to diffusing his fears.

(The first example I thought of was to think of a short rhyme that your child might say as a ward when he feels scared. Other examples might be to draw a picture of Slender Man in a book and tie it closed, or eats lots of broccoli at dinnertime because Slender Man hates kids that taste like broccoli, etc.)

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If rational explanations don't work to fix the irrational fear, try irrational explanations.

Scary stories can be fun, but if they wind up being something that the child (or adult!) worries about excessively, then one possible solution is to make them feel empowered to deal with it.

One suggestion I've seen that I thought was pretty creative was to get a simple plastic spray bottle, and print up a fancy label from your computer that identifies it as "Monster-b-gone" spray. You can even come up with an explanation as to how it contains the distilled pheromones of a rare caterpillar that Slender Man finds completely revolting. The spray can be used both actively (i.e. spray it in his face if you see him), or passively (i.e. spray it around the room or bed to "ward the bad guys off").

The beauty is that the pheromones are invisible and odorless, so you don't actually have to put anything in the bottle, or worry about messes.

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Ask your child the following questions to help in thinking about it realistically. I was scared of slenderman but I thought about this:

  1. How was he created?

  2. If he exists what are the chances he's after you? It's not like you arer the only child in the world

  3. He's a human too

  4. If he has no face how does he know where you are? Even if he can tele-port how can he know where you are?

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Well I was scared of slender man then I told my mom and she explained why it was stupid made a few jokes like if he lives in the woods why is he's suite so clean I bet its dry clean only (ect.). Then I got on youtube saw how someone can look like slender man and some cheesy fake video of slender man sightings. Now I'm fine.

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Hi ally, what's your age? –  woliveirajr Oct 16 at 17:14

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