child_fears - Janice I Nicholson Ed.D is professor and...

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Helping Children Cope with Fears: Using Children's Literature in Classroom Guidai Many children are dealing with adult fears such as death, crime, and war at early ages. School counselors can help children cope with these fears using stories from children's literature. The role that children's lit- erature can play in teaching these coping skills is dis- cussed along with strategies for choosing books. Several books and recommended counseling activities are described for use in the primary grades. R ecent events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent war Ron terrorism have heightened our fears and sense of vulnerability to future attacks. Although typically considered adult concerns, the constant media coverage in the immediate aftermath of these events and the continuing emphasis on terrorism have heightened our children's fears about death. As a result, parents, teachers, and school counselors are faced with the task of identifying and implementing strategies that will enable children to cope with these fears. The purpose of this article is to discuss the role that children's literature can play in teaching these coping skilis. Specifically, strategies for choosing books and for activities to accompany selected books will be presented. NATURE OF CHILDREN'S FEARS It is well established that fears are a natural part of children's development and occur in a fairly pre- dictable pattern. Normative data on children's fears suggest that the focus of their fears shifts as children grow older (e.g., Akande et al., 1999; Crosser, Robinson and Rotter (1991) suggested that in infancy and early childhood fears initially reflect a fear of strangers and separation from parents and later focus on dark rooms, sudden changes in appearances, large animals, and mystical creatures. Although children continue to be afraid of large ani- mals, in the early school years, these fears are gradu- ally replaced by fears of dangerous people such as robbers, muggers, and kidnappers, and a subsequent fear of being alone (Eme & Schmidt, 1978; While earlier studies indicate that rea.-life fears (i.e., fears of real world violence such a drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, and nuclear war) do not begin to emerge until early adolescence, more recent evidence now suggests that these fears are occurring at earlier ages, in the elementary school years (Owen, 1998). In a study of Hispanic and Anglo children ages 7 to 9, Owen found that danger, phys- ical injury, and death were the children's most fre- quently cited fears. Owen reported that regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity, fears of death and personal danger were preeminemt at this age. Given these findings, Owen concl aded that "With their high fear ratings of social violence . .. 7- ,8-, and 9-year-old children resemble older children from past research. Fears of drive-by shootings,
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child_fears - Janice I Nicholson Ed.D is professor and...

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