Alfred Hitchcock is known as the “Master of Suspense”. His movies were created with the hope of surfacing his viewers’ fears and suspending them throughout the story until the closing credits.
As he once stated, “Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.”
As Halloween approaches, all things spooky and scary surface in our minds. Of course, the angry-faced pumpkins or cartoon ghosts symbolize a different type of “spooky and scary” than most of the fears we hold. Stop for just a second and reflect on the fears that you held as a child. What were those, as Hitchcock described, “wolves” that you faced then, and what are the “wolves” that you face now.
Yesterday, my colleague and I were packing up our equipment from our mobile clinic and getting ready to lock up the small room where we see patients, when one of the girls from the drop-in center where we were working ran in and sat down on the empty chair by the door.
“Well, they didn’t work”, she said with a pressured tone. “What didn’t work?” My colleague asked. She went on to tell us that the birth control pills we prescribed two weeks ago didn’t protect her from getting pregnant and she was now feeling the full blown effects of being in her first trimester of pregnancy. She started to describe how excited she was and how she planned to move in with the baby’s father’s family, but as she continued to talk, her eyes became glossy and it seemed like our outward conversation had turned off and her thoughts had taken over.
She soon started to tell us about her fears. These fears had obvious roots in a childhood that was filled with dysfunctional family relationships. She described fears of not being able to care for her child and fears of loosing something that she already cared so deeply for.
I wanted to bring up this story and the topic of fear, not only because it’s almost October 31st, but mainly because fear is an important topic to discuss with our children. Fear can be paralyzing and the way we handle our fears and demonstrate this to the youth that are in our lives can either inhibit or enable them to move forward in their lives.
Fear is a natural emotion, and for the most part is a healthy way for us to learn about what is harmful and important to avoid. Phobias are fears that become excessive and can effect our daily lives. These phobias provoke significant anxiety and can be harmful for a child’s normal development.
There are simple things that we all can do for our children and even for our adult friends and family that can help to manage these fears and phobias in healthy ways.
- Start by identifying the fear. List out these fears and allow the child to express their thoughts and feelings surrounding this fear. Demonstrating to the children that they will not be belittled or ridiculed as their fears are important.
- List strategies that the child can use to help clear their mind when this fear occurs. Listing these out helps to make these strategies more tangible for the child and for family and friends.
- Relax. Finding time to do a relaxing activity with kids allows them to develop healthy coping skills and activities that they can retreat to if the begin to struggle with their fears or phobias in the future.
- Seek out more help. There are many situations when children benefit from professional behavioral therapy. The child’s pediatrician or school teacher are good resources to start with for connecting the child with the correct provider.
As you start to get your Halloween costume together or pull out the timeless thriller movies to watch this month, take some time to also have some conversations with the children in your life, and even your adult friends and families about some of their fears. It may not be the most common coffee chat conversation topic, but it is one that effects us all and is important and discuss.