I have a lot of fears – some realistic, some not so much. My kids have even more, of course, and as a mom it’s so hard helping them go through things that scare them. Recently, I learned a great little tip of sorts on How to Help Your Child With Fears – and it came from Zootopia directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore!
You heard that right – during my recent interview with Zootopia directors, one of my questions led to a discussion on children’s fears – and their thoughts on the matter gave me a great tool for helping my own children with their fears!
In the movie Zootopia, Judy and Nick face quite a few scary challenges, and the movie DOES have some jumpy parts. I carefully monitor what my kids can watch, but it’s interesting what things can scare them more than others. Ultron in Avengers? Eh, no big deal for them. A savage otter or tiger suddenly lunging at the glass in an animated film? My 4 year old about pounced into my lap! Here’s what I asked Byron and Howard regarding that…
Me: “Making a children’s movie, how do you guys find that good balance of having it exciting and scary without terrifying the kids? How do you find that balance?”
Howard: “For those scenes, like the ones where they were jumping at the glass, those kind of surprise moments, we thought it would be too much. People at the studio would react even during a musical moment. They have seen the movie so many times before but we were watching it and just kind of talking and boom, it jumps up and a guy goes ‘Oh my ‘gosh’!’ We thought maybe this is a little too much, because we don’t want to scare people out of their skin. Scare them to death.
We wanted to be thrilling. So we did a few test screenings and the first was in Chandler, Arizona, and I said ‘okay, here comes this part. Oh my…how many kids are going to leave the room. They loved it. They absolutely loved it. And after the screening they do a little focus group and they had a bunch of kids lined up in the front row and they said “What did you like most about the movie?” And so many said “When the tiger jumped out and scared Nick. We loved that.”
Byron: “When you go on a roller coaster with your kids you go down this big hill and it’s terrifying. But then your kind of feel the exultation after it. We did this together, we’re through it and we’re alive and that was fun wasn’t it.”
This was the first part where I was like – hey, this could be taken in, as a parent, and helpful for when my kids are afraid. I loved his example of the roller coaster, because we’ve all done that, right? Emphasize the fun and excitement and they can get past the fear much quicker! Then he continued….
Byron: “And also if Nick and Judy are okay. If our main characters are fine and they’re not terrified out of their skins and we’ve done a good job of making the audience comfortable with them, then I think it’s okay.
If we had done it from the beginning of the movie just had things jumping and such. Or before we had the kind of foundation of these two friends. That’s why we didn’t have scares before the two of them became good friends. Because you need that kind of safety net, I think, for the audience to have that to hold onto.”
That – that right there – a safety net in the two main characters, the best friends. That’s the KEY to helping our children with the fears!!! I’m sure Byron and Howard weren’t trying to share parenting advice or anything, but I walked away thinking ‘wow, that would make such a difference when my kids are scared!
How to help your child with fears?
Give them that safety net – the strong relationship foundation that they can trust – YOU.
You can be that for them, and when they see that YOU’RE okay in scary situations, they can hold onto that to help them get through their fear. The first step is to build that strong relationship with your child, and build the trust. Then, even in scary instances, stay strong and let them see that you’re okay – they should then realize that they’ll be okay, too!