Dr. Sheryl Ziegler shares some tips on how to talk to your kids about all the protests and riots.
First- not talking to your kids is not an option- they are seeing riots and protests all over media and social mediaNext- your kids perceive feelings around them, so they may be hearing adults talking or seeing emotions that they need context forLast, before getting into tips parents may be wondering if talking about social and racial injustice is too much given that we are in a global pandemic. By not talking about it parents may be adding to anxiety and fear, if they talk about it it may ease some worry or uncertainty that they have.
Preparing for the conversation– Know your own feelings, be prepared to be honest- If you are co-parenting, they should be involved as well and also know what they want to say- Know what terms you are going to use: racial injustice, social injustice, racial differences, racism, racial violence, police brutality- Remember that you don’t have to know the answers- be comfortable saying that you don’t know, that you will look into it- Be prepared to listen as much as you talk.
Tips for Talking about Racism– Start off by asking your children if/what they have heard- Racism- define it – simply put you can say “people are treated differently due to the color of their skin”- For “white” families the current thinking is that these children need to be taught about their privilege and become upstanders to injustice (I think that can be done in a variety of ways)- For children of color who may fear for their safety a conversation about how generally speaking police officers are here to help and not hurt but just like any profession, there are racist police officers- If they feel powerless or want to help, talk to them about being an upstander or change agent for good – discuss ways to become an ally to diverse racial groups- If a child or other family member says they “don’t see color” the research simply doesn’t back that up so don’t stop there- keep the conversation going- If while you are talking about the issue of racism your child says something racist- don’t get angry – be curious- ask them why they said that or where they got that idea- With older kids you can talk about how education, poverty and limited opportunities are related to racism as well.
Tips for Talking about Riots– Assuring your child’s safety is top priority- Letting them know that while images and thoughts of looting and rioting are very scary, the reality is that the areas in which they are occuring are typically limited – Focus on the opportunity to discuss much needed change in the country and how your family can be a part of the change for good