School Lockdown Anxiety: When Safety Drills Cause Fear

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m watching from the front door as my older two kids get off of the school bus. Normally, my six-year-old son comes running up the driveway, smiling and excited, ready to tell me all about his day. But today is different. He’s walking slowly, head and shoulders down, visibly shaken up. I immediately know something is wrong.

What’s wrong buddy?

We go inside and I ask him, “What’s wrong buddy, do you need to talk about it?” I can see the anxiety all over his face, and tears begin to well up in his eyes. My mind is racing as to what could have happened to cause such an emotional reaction. I just hug him as he lets it all out.

The problem I wasn’t prepared for

I just assumed that he got in trouble at school or that someone was mean to him on the bus. I was wrong. When he finally calmed down, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, we had a lockdown drill today and I was so scared that I cried under my desk.” I was at a complete loss for words, and in that moment, became emotionally overwhelmed by his statement.

Fighting back my emotions

I could feel tears falling down my face as I listened to my first grader recount the drill. No parent wants their child to realize that if someone came into their classroom, they could easily be seen under their desk with no protection. He told me he thought it was real because the door handle was jiggled. As he was hiding under his desk, he cried.

lockdown drill at school

I understand that times have changed since I was in school and that these types of drills are (sadly) the norm, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.

What do I say now?

After I collected myself, I told him that it was just a drill and that nothing had been wrong at his school. I explained to him that it was just like a fire drill or bad weather drill and was meant to keep students and teachers safe. I reminded him that his teacher and the other adults at school just want to make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.

After we talked a little bit more, he seemed much better and was quickly ready to head outside to play football. Of course, I didn’t recover as quickly. All I could think about was how to be better prepared to calm my children’s fears and let them know that they are safe when this happens again.

For those of you with younger, school-aged children, how do you talk about this subject with your kids?

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Elizabeth and her husband Nicholas have been married for 13 years. They live in Geismar with their 3 children, Addison (9), Parker (5), and Laurel (2). She is from Franklin, LA and moved to Baton Rouge after receiving her Master’s in Business Administration from Southeastern Louisiana University. She is a Budget Administrator for the Department of Public Safety. She relies on sarcasm, a dry sense of humor, and the occasional cocktail to deal with the daily demands of motherhood. She loves crawfish, clean sheets, vacuuming, and the latest crime documentary on Netflix.

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