How I Helped My Kids Overcome Their Fear Of The Zombie Apocalypse

Zombies aren't real, but they ARE sort of useful as a teaching tool.

by Alecia Morgan
Originally Published: 

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Zombies are big in the Morgan household. For one thing, Daddy loves zombie movies, zombie games, etc. For another, we have four adventurous kids (ages almost2-almost7), and they’re both thrilled and terrified at the idea of zombies. They also waver on the is-it-real-or-not line on things like ghosts, star wars, etc. That’s just how their ages are. The line is very thin and sometimes completely invisible.

I think the best thing you can do is establish a two-fold attack: de-mystify and prepare. This attacks the fear of zombies, but it’s also a great way to tackle a lot of things in life, really.

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On the side of de-mystify:

  • We let them download the game Plants vs. Zombies for their Kindle fires. Nothing says zombies aren’t too scary like plants fighting them. I mean, my kids plant-kill all the time, both actively (running amok in my flower beds) or passively (over-watering my garden beds, etc). And if kids > plants and plants > zombies, that means kids > zombies.
  • They play Minecraft (on the PS4 and on their Kindles), and Minecraft has cute, pixelated zombies that they can easily kill with just a little wooden sword.
  • We play zombie tag, which we created, in which when you’re tagged, you can only walk fast with arms outstretched and no bending knees. Then you infect everyone and you see who survives. This is a huge hit. In fact, they prefer to be zombies and fight over who gets to start.
  • Nerf makes a “Zombiestrike” line of toys that they’re obsessed with. This year, they even had Zombiestrike water guns, so that was what we got Dan (Daddy) for his birthday last month. The more “fun” you can make “Zombies” as a Thing, the less scared they’ll be. All four of my kids adore waterguns and foam swords (there’s a Zombiestrike “machete”). The older two also have Nerf “blasters” (foam dart guns) that they’re allowed to use with Daddy when the little two are inside.

On the side of Prepare:

  • We talk about how the Zombie Apocalypse isn’t something real, and while it’s not totally IMPOSSIBLE, it’s excessively unlikely, and here’s why, etc etc etc. Then…
  • We talk about what we WOULD do if it *was* real (using basic zombie survival strategies, of course) – things like barricading windows/doors, showing them how we could “zombie-proof” our homes, etc. Which is fun and useful because …
  • Zombies aren’t real (yet!), but there are other disasters in which we might need to shelter in place (TEOTWAWKI obviously). So teaching them how to secure the house isn’t terrible to know, and while some may argue that it’s “scary” to think that they might ever need to, it’s scarier for them to think of a situation that they do NOT know how to handle. Knowledge is power, and *applied* knowledge is even more powerful, etc etc. So showing them how they can use our extra deadbolts, etc, is good to know for just in general emergencies.
  • Plus it’s useful to talk about things like this – “Hey see all your toys on the floor? If there were zombies, they would walk on them because they don’t really feel that stuff, but you would feel it and couldn’t run!” Or, when they ask what if a Zombie IS in my room/climbs my window/etc – you get to use that to talk about things that are even more terrifying than zombies and more real (though rare), but use “zombies” as the reason. “If a zombie (casually add: or anyone else) ever did climb into your room, the first thing you’d do is …” and outline what you’d want them to do, whatever it is – wake up your siblings, get out of the room, get mom and dad, get help, etc, whatever it is. When they know what to do, it’s less scary.

Lastly, in the course of our normal spring, I like planting a home garden. The kids are semi-interested, but *this* year I had the inspiration to call it our “survival” garden. We talked about how we’d use it to survive in the Zombie Apocalypse (they love this) and what we needed in it. Obviously we just don’t have the space to grow everything we’d need to survive, but it made it very fun for them.

Now they each have their own “survival garden” section that they care for – M1’s is in his old turtle sandbox, and it has a bunch of lettuces (which he even tried this year, since he’s growing them), asparagus, and broccoli. M2’s is in a raised, built-in planter bed and has strawberries and two kinds of mint. M3 and M4 help me in the larger raised planter that Dan built us, and they’re growing corn, more strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, edamame, and baby pumpkins.

Dan and I are in charge of the extras that we’ve planted all around the yard – three blueberry bushes, ten raspberry vines, two blackberry vines, three grapevines, two satsuma mandarin trees, one regular mandarin tree, one giant lemon tree, one persimmon tree, three semi-dwarf plum trees, two ultra-dwarf apple trees, one regular apple tree, one white nectarine tree, and one white peach tree. (Whew!) Calling it a survival garden makes the kids really interested in caring for it AND makes them feel powerful, you know, just in case the ZA does happen.

Anyway, de-mystifying and preparing helps with just about everything. Driving in traffic scared (scares) the shit out of me sometimes. I still panic thinking of driving in LA. I try to de-mystify (aka making myself pay attention when Dan’s driving, watching cars for patterns, watching how really aggressive drivers get in, etc). And I try to prepare – practicing driving in lighter traffic that’s not so scary (ie if I miss an exit, I’m not going to be driving 20 miles towards Bakersfield before there’s a turnaround, etc). I still don’t like it and it makes my heart race and I can’t have any music or noise, but I CAN do it, and it’s less scary than before. A bottle of magic anti-traffic spray would be nice and maybe help until my natural courage picked up (or a kid grows up and realizes zombies aren’t so real/scary), but I think using it in addition to other strategies is good, too.

Along with being an accomplished zombie-fighter, Alecia is an accomplished writer who has been published by Forbes, the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, and more. See more of her Quora posts here:

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