3 Ways to Talk about Sharks With Your Kid

by On July 29, 2013 in Childrens Books, General, Reading

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Parent lesson #593: There are different ways to teach your kids about sharks, not all of them good.


Image credit: purelyblu, morguefile.com

Image credit: purelyblu, morguefile.com

1) The Really Wrong Way

When your kid asks you about movies that scared you as a child, don’t tell her about how you were in high school in 1975 and had the stuffing scared out of you watching Jaws. Don’t mention that the movie starts with a pretty young girl being dragged?underwater by a shark, or ends with a shark leaping on a boat, eating the crusty sailor.? And trust me, don’t describe and then start humming that iconic shark-approaching music (who knew it could scare a kid that never saw the film?)

I know – idiot! What was I thinking?


2) The “Try-an-Aquarium-Visit-And-See-If-That-Helps” Way

With a kid now freaked out by sharks and balking at beach visits (just like me in 1975!), I had to stage a shark intervention.

My thinking: let’s go on a day trip to the Aquarium! Let’s look at pretty fish and interesting sharks swimming happily together, all from a safe, cool vantage point of a “sea-life-in-the-round” walk-through tube.? Mommy and Daddy can hold her hand while docents teach her marine science facts.

Gosh, it sounded so logical in concept. Hope loved the walk-through tube until the first shark sighting. Then there was lots of whimpering.


3) The “Let’s-Look-at-an-Educational-Book-About-Sharks” Smart Way

Great White Shark book coverBookboard’s resident librarian Cen recently introduced Bookboard families to the latest summer titles in the library. When I saw one of the titles was Great White Shark: Ruler of the Sea, I tried to swipe it quickly from Hope’s view.

To my shock, she swiped it back and said “That one!

“Are you sure?” I asked. ?“I’m a little bit nervous,” she admitted, “but if it’s scary, we can stop, right?”

From the first page, we entered the serious shark reality zone. I tried to keep a cheerful voice as I read the opening paragraph about the “great white sharks moving in all directions to feast on the carcass of a dead whale.” The picture showed a shark feeding frenzy around a bloody carcass with blood-tinted water. Egads, how could I have screwed up again?

Yet that’s when I learned the secret of getting my kid over her fear of sharks: introduce her to a baby shark.

  • Hope was captivated reading about a great white that was only two days old, left on its own and hungry. (“Aw, poor shark!” she cooed.)
  • She was indignant when a 17-foot adult shark bumped the young shark and stole its food. (“That’s mean!” she snapped.)
  • When baby shark finally killed a fish and ate, Hope was actually relieved. And by the time the shark matured to adulthood, Hope was its biggest fan.

Shark phobia gone! It just took the right book, reading with mom, and the absence of any ominous theme music.



Diana is a sociologist, freelance writer and mom, though rarely in that order. Her writing spans topics from parenting joys and challenges to prevention education. She writes a monthly parenting blog for Yahoo and has published feature articles on adoption, family rituals and the childcare industry for parenting publications. Diana earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz. These days find her hanging with her husband and book-loving six year old in the San Francisco Bay Area, while happily blogging and serving as a reading advocate for Bookboard.

1 Comment

  1. Tim Akers

    August 2, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Just two notes of the “Jaws” theme from me and little Hope goes out of her skin. We hear it during S.F. Giants games when one of our players is about to steal second base and she freaks out then as well.

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