"Mommy, I am afraid to go to school today!"
Updated: Oct 30, 2022
Concerned about her five-year-old daughter's comment, she began questioning why. The previous day, Lillian's teacher announced that police officers would visit their classroom to discuss safety.
More than ever before, Lillian, like thousands of other young children, are growing up fearful and unsure if they can trust police officers. Lilian had witnessed a family member handcuffed by mistake. She has observed neighbors stopped while walking down their street. Likewise, she watched the events unfold in Uvalde, TX with others like herself.
As adults, we know that fear is a natural, unavoidable part of being a kid. Sometimes fears develop during the early stages of childhood and can follow them for the rest of their lives. As a team, parents, and teachers can help young children like Lilian work through her fear and gain a different perspective or feel more comfortable about the importance and purpose of police officers or law enforcement. How can we support children's fears in Preschool?
Here we have a few suggestions to help:
1. Family Fear Survey: At the beginning of the year, teachers might survey parents to learn if there have been any tragedies or experiences that their child may have experienced. Explain that your goal is to create a warm environment where all students feel safe, comfortable, and respected. Assure them that the questions will not invade their privacy but will assist you in preparing various lessons during the year. A simple example may be when you teach about fire safety. If the child has experienced something with fire, you want to be aware to ensure their child will feel comfortable.
2. Make a list: Maintain a list of children's fears to remember throughout the school year.
3. Make an announcement: Announce to students and forward a note to families to notify them of your lesson topic. The teacher can use survey responses to critique their lessons, locate age-appropriate story books and picture books about fears as a guide to creating their conversations, and support children who have experienced losing a home during a tornado, flooding, fire, and other tragedies.
4. Lesson plans: Create lessons about food shortage, homelessness, child kidnapping, and gangs that young children face in our communities.
5. Awareness: Increase your awareness and knowledge about children's fear. Arrange a workshop with a social worker or child psychologist to a parent meeting to share information about ways to help children face their fears.
A few resources to support your efforts: