I have two boys, one eleven, and one three. I don't know exactly how or when, but the 11-year-old has decided that it was a good idea to explain the the 3-year-old all about zombies. Of course he left out any meaningful discussions about death, and dying, and the fear thereof. The 3-year-old was already afraid of dying (a fear which he is steadily overcoming), and has now become much more attached-read clingy-and is afraid that zombies are going to get him. I have been a little on the fence with this one, where in some instances, I will go along with it as imaginative play, and he and I will go "Zombie Hunting", which seems to help him overcome the fear (and its fun), and in other circumstances, I feel compelled to tell him, "Zombies are not real, your brother is just trying to scare you, it's time to go to bed."
I know there is no meaningful way to explain to a three-year-old that monsters and zombies and the like reflect a human fear of death, and of supernatural/unexplained/misunderstood phenomena.
EDIT: adding details in response to anongoodnurse's question:
This has been continuing for 3-6 months, and occurs morning, noon, and night. There is a close association to darkness, but Zombies could be behind the curtains at breakfast, in the bathroom all day, in any unfamiliar place (or wherever the parents or groups of people are not) and yes they are almost always in dark places.
EDIT: Refining question. There are some excellent responses and great food for thought. I don't think the first part of the question has been addressed, though.
My question is two-fold:
Does this represent a fear of death/dying.
Put another way (and with more detail) could this type of fixation resolve to a more general fear of death (which was his preoccupation prior to this, and which he seems to have come to some sort of understanding) that might indicate he really hasn't gotten over his fear or misunderstanding of death?
Regardless of the answer to the first part, How or should I even try to convince him that zombies aren't real?
In response to answers and comments, and after some reflection, I don't think it is practical to try stopping him from engaging in the imaginative play "zombie hunting". Additionally, I have concerns about confusion arising from engaging him in this type of play while also stating that zombies aren't real. However, isn't the basis of imaginative play entertaining thoughts of things we know don't exist? (I think I have a new question brewing)
This part of the question then becomes, how can I best support him overcome this fear?