Monday, June 25, 2007

Magical Boys Dying Mystical Deaths Are A Part Of Everyday Life: Explaining Mortality To Your Soon-To-Be Grieving Child

Word on the street is that Harry Potter is heading to heaven (or hell, depending upon your church's feelings regarding the damning qualities of practicing witchcraft and/or the use of the phrase "bloody hell"). This ill portent has normally sensible publications addressing predictably overly-protective parents' fears as to how they are supposed to deal with their child's possible reaction to a fictional character's death. Apparently, just saying 'It's only a book' and then trusting them to understand this is a violation of the parent-child contract (see below), and a sure fire way to inspire your young'un to writing reams of best selling misery lit in the years to come. Experts -- and those falsely claiming be experts -- now warn that just because your kid has read thousands of pages of fiction in the past couple of years is no reason to assume that they possess any real intelligence. No, it's the responsibility of parents everywhere to call their kids down off of their flying broomsticks and explain to them that the entire Harry Potter series was, in fact, fake. Why none of these moms and dads had thought to do this six books ago is beyond me. Maybe watching their kids run face first into cement pillars at the subway station was just too much fun.

Anyway, the British newspaper, The Telegraph, has called in Michael Brody, a leading American child psychologist with a doctorate in imaginary medicine and apparently no concern whatsoever for his reputation among his professional peers, to draw up a three-point plan "to help parents comfort their tearful children."

No, seriously, they actually did. Here it is, reprinted without permission in all of its bold print glory:

1) Do not think that they will be scarred for life. Many parents today think that their children cannot experience any anxiety without rushing in, so they do not get any practice dealing with it. Reading a book where there is a conflict and terror is not the worst thing in the world. And the thing about reading as opposed to visual images on television is that it gives children time to process it.

2) Use the experience as a teaching moment. For younger children, there are two big mysteries: where do babies come from, and what happens when people die? If there is a death in the book, it is up to the parents to have a discussion. That said, the book may not be appropriate for very young children.

3) Do not say, "It's just a book!" You do have to make it clear that this is a fictional character, but to a child Harry Potter is very real, so his or her feelings are going to be very real. In some ways parents are going to have to deal with this in the same way they would with the death of a family member or pet.

Okay, so #1 sort of says what I was saying: that kids can handle it and that parents shouldn't worry themselves too much. (But wouldn't this negate the need for tips 2 & 3? My guess is that Dr. Brody is billing by the hour and feels it's only proper to give the newspaper their money's worth.) As for #2, I always figured that the particulars of sex and death oughta be broached in different conversations, but we're in the era of the Suicide Girls, so maybe I'm just old-fashioned. #3 seems stupid to me, though. Who's going to call in all of their extended relatives to help flush a book down the toilet? Wouldn't it be simpler for the Montessori schools just to take a day off of decoupage to address all of this? Besides segregating well-to-do children from their poorer peers and instilling in them an inappropriate sense of individual entitlement, isn't that the sort of touchy-feely programming that we're paying them for?

Now, I'm not gonna front. I'm no specialist in the loss of imaginary friends. But I've got a hell of a lot easier of explanation to offer your kids (who will, I'm sure, be wishing you were detailing the baby-making process to them instead). Tell 'em that when good people die, that they're not suffering. Tell them that so long as we remember them, that they're always with us, in our hearts. And then assure them that when fictional characters who have made their authors and publishers billions of dollars in royalties and merchandising rights are eventually written to death, it's a foregone conclusion that they will come back to visit us in prequels.

Original heads up: Movie City News
Photos by: Jill Greenberg