The season to be frightened, Halloween, is close upon us. Like many parents, you may cringe at your child's request for spooky stories, deeming them too terrifying for young folk. You might even worry that the stories' evil characters send the wrong message. So you forgo the traditional account of Hansel and Gretel for one that ends with the witch becoming a vegetarian. Or maybe you steer clear of these tales altogether -- hoping to ensure that your child will sleep nightmare-free ever after.
But scary tales serve an important purpose, say psychologists and children's literature specialists. Like the late Bruno Bettelheim, PhD, a psychologist best known for his groundbreaking book, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, these experts believe that frightening stories can not only provide great entertainment (think of the nail-biting chase scene in Jack and the Beanstalk), they also help kids through key developmental stages.