Episode 596: Stern Comfort

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: The Monsters

There has long been an unwritten rule in zombie stories that you don’t call them zombies. While this seems to be quickly falling out of favor, there are still times when you need to come up with some sort of euphemism for zombies. Case in point: telling people about them who don’t have the right frame of reference. Take kids, for instance. You probably don’t want to tell them that these things are reanimated corpses that want to catch them, and then eat them alive. That’s probably a little too much for kids to handle. But at the same time, you want them to take the threat very seriously.

Hence: monsters. Kids understand what monsters are, at least on a very non-specific level. Monsters are the bad guys. They should be afraid of monsters, because the monsters are going to “get them”. This instills the right mindset in kids to help them survive. Avoid the monsters, and don’t get eaten by zombies.

About this Episode:

I want Vicky to be a good mother here and comfort her children, but also work hard to keep them safe. In my original draft, I had the kids cry, and then be comforted by Vicky. I ended up rewriting things because it just didn’t feel right for Vicky. These kids should be scared, that might just keep them alive.

Discussion Question: Explaining Zombies to Kids

As both a father and a huge fan of zombies, I’ve come across this one a time or two: how do you explain zombies to kids? Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I let my five year-old watch zombie movies with me, but it’s also pretty hard to completely hide my obsession. We’ve gone to zombie walks, I have loads of zombie books, movies, and games. Oh, and then there’s all those LEGO zombies I have lying around my office.

So how do you explain that to kids without, you know, horrifying them?

17 thoughts on “Episode 596: Stern Comfort”

  1. Well, I guess I could try comparing zombies to strangers: “The may look like you, but that doesn’t mean they’re nice. Be cautious and watch your back.”

    However, the main point that I’d want to get across to them is: “Just because they’re scary doesn’t mean they’re invincible.”

    • I really like the idea of comparing them to strangers. It builds on something parents are already doing, so there’s a foundation there with the child. Nice.

  2. Typo alert, Discussion Question:

    Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I like my five year-old watch zombie movies with me, but it’s also pretty hard to completely hide my obsession.

    Replace “like my like” with let. 😀

    • “like I like”, sorry.

      • *sighs* Replace with “like I let”, my brain is awkward today! 😀

        • Did … you just typo alert yourself…?

        • Hah. Fixed. Thanks BV.

  3. Eh, I’d just tell it like it is; kids are tougher than adults give them credit for and can handle a whole lot more shit than most adults can; this is probably because most kids are still learning about the world and thus have a very fluid and flexible view of “How Things Are”, whereas adults have tricked themselves into thinking they have this whole “life” thing figured out and are pretty good at thinking they know “How Things Are” when they’re usually more clueless than the kids.
    Sorry, that was more pessimistic than I meant it to be. My point was supposed to be adults have a more rigid worldview because their greater amount of life experiences tricks them into thinking they have the world figured out so when something comes along and shows them that they’re wrong, they have a harder time accepting this new knowledge and assimilating it into their daily lives, whereas kids are more able to accept new ideas due to most everything still being new to them.

    • You make a very good point here. Kids are exposed to new things every single day, and they’re much better at incorporating it into their understanding of the world.

    • Darg’s comments are spot on! In the trauma field, this trait is known as Resilience. Children don’t have as nanny Shoulds as adults. Their needs are fairly basic and existential: Love me, keep me safe, be the adult. To be sure, if overwhelmed by horrific experiences, they will be terrified, andpossibly traumatized. However, recovery, adaptability and perseverance are contingent upon, and maximized, their adult caregivers.

      1. Be Calm
      2. Be Honest
      3. Promise Nothing (huge pet peeve with the whole, “I promise nothing bad will happen”)
      4. Be Clear and Simple: “ok, this is what we are going to do next)
      5. Identify, Label Express: Billy, it’s ok to be afraid, I too am afraid

      • Excellent tips. I use a lot of these for just normal, day to day activities. It’s amazing how much easier kids are if they know exactly what’s happening and what to expect.

        On this point: “3. Promise Nothing (huge pet peeve with the whole, “I promise nothing bad will happen”)”

        I could not agree more. Whenever I’m watching a show and I see someone do that it makes my skin crawl.

  4. I think you’re getting better Dave!
    I love the comic forever!

    • Thanks Stan; I’m always trying to improve.

  5. As to how to explain:

    Tommy, you know how Uncle Phil is, well, a butt-head? He shows up when he is least expected, comes in uninvited, stinks because he never showers, doesn’t leave till we kick him out, eats everything and never cleans up? And how he absolutely drives your mother insane? Well, these guys are like Uncle Phil, but with less fashion sense. So, we going to play the Avoid Uncle Phil game again! and see how long we can go this time without being noticed. Remember, our record was when we went camping during Spring Break without telling him . . .

    • Oh man, this is fantastic.

    • This Uncle Phil sounds like someone the zombies would be hard pressed to chase after! 😀

      • Hah, he sounds like quite the character.