The Scary Necessity of Lockdown Drills
Allaying kids' fears about lockdown drills and danger at school
I just asked the usual "how was your day" question. My 6-year-old son responded with "good," per the usual, but then added "we had a lockdown drill today." Lockdown drills. We had tornado and fire drills, to prepare for things out of our control, but no one thought of lockdowns for the what-if situation of a person coming onto school grounds and endangering the lives of students.
I asked what they did in the lockdown drill. He told me exactly where they huddled and what his teacher was required to do and that they "couldn't make one little peep." It made me sad as he told me the protocol. He didn't mention why a lockdown would be necessary and I'm not sure he knows, and frankly I'm OK with that right now.
I don't think I shelter my child, but I also don't think he needs to know of every possible, tragic what-if scenario in the world. If he asks me why they have lockdown drills, I'll tell him it's in case someone dangerous comes to school that shouldn't be there. He's 6. I want him to enjoy life as a kid, and innocent, life-loving, happy, song-singing kid for as long as he can. I see his awareness and cognizance of the world growing, and with that some unfounded fears, however, processing why someone would come shoot people at a school, well I just don't think that's something he needs to worry about yet. These worries of danger at school at causing some kids to not want to go.
If your child comes home worried after a lockdown, try to allay their fears by having an open discussion. Fear and anxiety are healthy to a degree as both protect us from doing crazy things that could be harmful. I like the suggestion by Dr. Dawn O'Malley, licensed psychologist and and clinical director at Alexander Youth Network, to discuss fear and anxiety. She recommends helping a child think through the risks. Her bee-stink analogy works well for young kids ... well actually all ages.
The scenario she gives: Say a child has a fear of bees and it's such an acute fear, he won't go outside. He likely is overestimating the risk of a bee stinging him. "Talk to the child about how much risk there is," she says. Ask him how many times he has been outside and stung by a bee. His likely response may be once or twice, she says. Then ask him how many times he's been outside and not been stung by a bee. The answer likely is lots.
I think the bee-sting analogy helps bring big fears back down to a manageable level.
After my son finished telling his dad and I about the lockdown drill and went back to coloring, my husband and I simply shared a glance that seemed to say "I wish my kid didn't have to live in that world," but it's reality ... a new reality that doesn't seem to be going away.