Penelope the Pumpkin began to panic every time she thought about Halloween night. Her pumpkin skin was usually the color of a pretty copper penny, but when she started to panic, she got sweaty, and her cheeks started to turn red. Sometimes, she would start shaking. Halloween was only a few weeks away and Penelope was absolutely terrified about how she was going to handle front porch duty this year.
Penelope’s panic attacks started last year on Halloween night. It was a beautiful festive evening. The moon was huge and lit the way for groups of neighborhood children. Penelope’s job was greeting trick or treaters on the front porch of a big white house that was all dressed up for Halloween night. There were ghosts hanging from the trees in the front yard, giant creepy spiders nestled in piles of leaves and the usual fall decorations like bales of hay and shocks of dried corn bordering the fence. The air was crisp and smelled like burning leaves. Penelope loved the smell of fall and seeing the children in their costumes.
All of the families had been so friendly and happy. Many of them commented on the variety of Jack-O-Lantern faces that lined the stairs. Everything was going great until Butch the Bulldog Bully and his group of friends arrived. Butch was dressed like a pirate this year. He had a patch over one eye, and was wearing a big black cape. Butch and his boys got their treat, and were almost to the next house. Suddenly, Butch turned around and started shouting. “Ahoy, Matey! They ran back and started kicking the Jack-O-Lanterns near Penelope. They even picked up Peter the Pumpkin and smashed him to the ground. Penelope was so scared her light went out.
Ever since that night, Penelope was afraid. Afraid to try new things, afraid to go anywhere Butch might be and especially afraid of what could happen on Halloween night. The thought of one of her friends getting hurt made Penelope sad. It took a long time for Peter the Pumpkin to get better and for all his stiches to heal.
Penelope’s mom Priscilla, tried to help by acknowledging her feelings. “I know what Butch did was scary Penelope. Butch is mean to everyone because he doesn’t like himself. He hurts inside so he hurts others.” While her mom’s explanation did make sense to Penelope, it didn’t make her feel less afraid.
Penelope was sitting on the porch thinking about Halloween night. “What are you doing,” asked Georgie the Ghost. “I’m thinking about Halloween night and about what happened last year with Butch. The thought of it just freaks me out.” Penelope said.
Georgie could relate to feeling afraid. He used to feel the same way on Halloween. “I used to be afraid I’d fall. When the wind howled and it was dark, I’d shake so hard and be so scared. My friend Oliver the Wise Owl saw me trembling in the tree and came to my rescue. He coached me through it by teaching me a visualization to turn off my panic button. Want to try it?”
‘Oliver told me to close my eyes, and take 3 deep breaths. He told me to use my imagination to pretend I was a tree with beautiful fall leaves. You know like red, orange and yellow leaves. Oliver told me to pretend that my scary thoughts were leaves and to picture them falling to the ground until my tree was empty.
Then he told me to picture myself as strong as a tree that was unshakeable in the wind because I had very strong roots. When I did that, I felt powerful and noticed my panic button turned off. I started to feel more confident every time I thought about being as strong as a tree.”
Penelope did feel stronger. It was the first time her mind wasn’t filled with scary thoughts. There was still a few weeks until Halloween. She decided she’d practice the visualization every day so she’d be ready to turn off the panic button. She had a job to do…she had to light the way for the trick or treaters.
What are some of the things that scare you?
How does your body feel when you are afraid?
Describe what you want to do when you feel panic. Do you want to run? Do you want to hide? Do you freeze like a statue?
What could you do to turn off your panic button?
About the Authors: Deb and Beth are co-creators of the Simply Successful Program and Simply Successful Kids. Their social -emotional learning stories educate kids about emotions and open discussions between children and parents. educators and peers.
Deb Timmerman, RN HTP
Beth Tuttle, EFT