Can I convince him not to fear those who don't look like us?

By Marion Bilich, PhD
October 03, 2005

Question

My 4-year-old heard from an older child that people from other countries are mean and scary. Now he's developed a fear of people who look different from our family. How can I convince him that immigrants aren't any more dangerous than anyone else?

Answer

It's not unusual for 4-year-olds to be frightened of strangers and people who seem different from themselves. It's essential to explain to your child that there are all kinds of people in the world, all different sizes, shapes, and colors. But those things aren't important.

You might use the example of the diverse group of children in your child's preschool class. Some may be tall and some may be short, some have blond hair and some have brown hair. We can show our children, in ways that they can understand, that the way people look doesn't really matter.

How you react toward immigrants or people who are different from you will greatly influence your child's reactions as well. If you take your child to a store owned by an immigrant, your friendly behavior toward the owner will make your child less fearful.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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