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Responding Thoughtfully to Children's Fears
October 9, 2020
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“Responding thoughtfully to young children’s fears during uncertain times is critical,” writes Erika Christakis in an article that is the basis for the latest Exchange Reflections. “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 fears that a parent or grandparent might die from COVID-19, or when we watch them weave real-life concerns in their fantasy play…it is tempting to turn to the familiar cognitive toolkit of adulthood: reassurance, appeals to reason, and sometimes wishful thinking and denial.

‘Oh sweetheart,’ we reassure the anxious child, ‘I do not want you to worry about mommy dying.”…What kind of adult would not want to offer these reassurances?

Here’s the problem. Apart from the fact that these comforting claims are aspirations, not certainties…when we rush to immediately offer reassurance or persuasion to a distressed child, we are relying on cognitive tools to address an emotional state of mind – namely fear – that first calls for an empathic connection before any kind of shared problem-solving can be achieved.”

This Exchange Reflections is filled with timely food-for-thought ideas and insightful questions to discuss with staff or college students, or to simply ponder on your own.

And - here’s an opportunity to do something nice for yourself: Join a one-hour Exchange Reflections discussion on Tamar Jacobson's "Self Compassion" article; meet with Dimensions Foundation Education Specialists and early childhood colleagues; and gain tools for bringing more joy into your life. Learn more and register.

Exchange Reflections

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Exchange Reflections are designed to help a team of people meet in-person or live online to think deeply together about a topic using an article from Exchange magazine as a guide. Included are discussion questions to help guide reflections, as well as a Making Commitments idea sheet to help prompt ideas into action. For your convenience, Exchange Reflections are available in PDF format and you can download immediately on your desktop.

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