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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Helping Young Ones Feel Safe in These Uncertain Times

“Drop,” shouted my 5th grade teacher.  Immediately, all 34 of us dropped to our knees, under our desks, with our heads down and our hands over our heads.  This happened the first Friday of every month as a result of something called “The Cuban Missile Crisis.”  My teacher would admonish us if we failed to take the drill seriously.  At age 10, we found our teachers admonition to be frightening, even though we didn’t know much about the crises, or the Cold War, we did know that danger lurked if we failed to drop when told to do so.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin’.”  Today, although drop drills are mostly a thing of the past (except in areas threatened by earthquakes), we have preschool children participating in “live shooter” drills.  A live shooter drill involves an adult unknown to the children, coming onto campus with a toy weapon and pretending to be there to shoot the children.  This developmentally inappropriate practice is more likely to cause young children to become incredibly anxious, with some showing symptoms of PTSD.  In addition to such drills, now we have a company called ProTecht, selling bulletproof blankets to shield small children from gunfire, while another company is now manufacturing bulletproof backpacks.  The times in fact have changed, as it appears that we’ve become so frightened as a society, that we are rushing to utilize Band-Aids as a way to avoid dealing with a much bigger issue.  America has become the most violent industrialized nation in the world.

As an educator, I can’t influence policy in schools other than my own, but I can encourage parents of young children to take a few simple steps to help their young ones feel safe and secure.  The most obvious and easiest thing to do is to simply turn off your televisions; don’t listen to the news on the radio when your children are around, and avoid discussing world affairs in their presence. 

Secondly, since young children feel safe when their environment is predictable, try to maintain the same household routine as always and the same daily schedule.

Thirdly, insist that children in the early childhood (birth – age 8) are not exposed to conversations about potential threats of violence, or threats to their well-being, while at school.   Discourage the use of “live shooter drills” and at the very least, if the school or daycare center won’t budge on this matter, ask to be given 24 hours warning of a pending drill, so you have the option of keeping your child home.

Early childhood is a time for play.  It’s that time in a child’s life when free exploration of the environment, overseen by nurturing adults is essential.  Young children need opportunities to enjoy fantasy play, run, climb, paint, sing, and laugh, without a care in the world.  Implementing drills that will only rob our keiki of their sense of security may cause irreputable harm to their psyches’.  Let’s stand up for our keiki and demand a more rational and more pragmatic approach to the problem of violence in our society.