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Responding Thoughtfully to Children's Fears

by Erika Christakis
November/December 2020
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/responding-thoughtfully-to-childrens-fears/5025614/

“It is important for adults to reassure children that they are safe.”

That is a refrain I have heard many times (and found myself repeating) during this year of growing hardship for many Americans. But reassurance, however, well intended, can sometimes backfire and even increase children’s anxiety.

Reassurance certainly seems like the natural response to children during stressful times. After all, caregivers have powerful urges to protect young children, and we know that fear and anxiety, particularly from traumatic events, can adversely affect the architecture of the growing brain. It is hard to recall a bigger trigger for anxiety than 2020 is shaping up to be. In addition to the death, disability and financial insecurity many families—including child care teachers—are facing from COVID-19, the pandemic has amplified systemic inequality, unhealed racial wounds and the painful economics of securing quality child care. 

Responding thoughtfully to young children’s fears during uncertain times is critical because, as the National Council on the Developing Child explains, “For young children who perceive the world as a threatening place, a wide range of conditions can trigger anxious behaviors that then impair their ability to learn and to interact socially with others.” 

When a child expresses fear that a ...

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