How Do We Teach Children Safety, Without Making Them Afraid?

Year B, 3rd Sunday of Easter, 1 John 3:1-7; Lectionary reading for April 18, 2021

I really wanted to focus on the joy of the first verse in this reading:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

1 John 3:1

Unfortunately, there is more to the message of this passage that needs to be addressed. Our world is full of wonder and goodness, but there is evil here too. There are people who refuse the designation “child of God” and choose instead to hurt others and destroy creation. Our children need to know that not everyone is trustworthy. It is imperative that we teach them to stay safe.

In our age of 24-hour news channels and instant disaster updates sent straight to our phones, stories of evil can be difficult to escape. As adults, we can filter this information with what we know of the goodness of the wider world. Children cannot. The world can seem to be a very frightening place when the adults around them discuss murder and mayhem within earshot.

Michael Leannah’s book Most People is a simple and comforting antidote to that kind of fear. It gently explains that while there are some bad people, most people in the world are kind, helpful, and safe to be around.

Most people want to make other people—even strangers—feel good. Most people are very good people.

Michael Leannah

Jennifer Morris’s illustrations back up this message by depicting an impressive array of diverse people doing good things in a variety of circumstances. She draws people of all sizes, colours, abilities, and lifestyles, which gives readers an opportunity to talk about the expectations we have about certain groups of people.

This book does not deny the existence of evil, and I don’t suggest you do with your children, either! Until God’s will is fully done on Earth as it is in heaven, we need to teach our children ways to keep safe without making them fearful. We are all children of God, and most people live up to that calling. Let’s give the children in our care a message of hope along with our necessary messages of caution.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What should you do if you get separated from your parent/family/caregiver?
  • Look through the illustrations and ask the children what they think about a few different people, and ask them why they think that.
  • Do you think people are mostly good or mostly bad?

Discussion after you read:

  • Go back through the illustrations and talk about people the children had earlier said looked mean, scary, or bad.
  • Can you tell if a person is bad by looking at them?
  • What is the difference between being cautious and being afraid?
  • Remind children that if someone makes them feel unsafe, they should always find an adult they trust.

Please be mindful of your audience when reading this book. If you work with children who have experienced trauma, this book could help them understand that not everyone is as scary as they might think, but they might also feel like their experience is being minimized. If you know little about the children in your care, please make sure your questioning is gentle and that you in no way try to minimize or dismiss any child’s experience of trauma.

This book is really one of a kind, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s tough to talk to our kids about staying safe without also making them more afraid, particularly of people who look different from their family. Most People can start important conversations in your home, church, or wider ministry.

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Leannah, Micheal. Most People. Tilbury House, 2017.