How to talk to kids about racism, protests and injustice
It’s OK not to have all the answers. It’s important to have the conversation.
As reported on Today.com – June 1, 2020, 6:35 PM EDT / Updated June 2, 2020, 4:37 PM EDT / Source: TODAY
By Meghan Holohan
For many parents, talking to their children about the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd may seem daunting. Racism, police brutality and civil disobedience are big topics that some parents might feel afraid to broach. Yet experts say it is essential to address them.
“Not talking about it sends a message that maybe what (children are) feeling isn’t right,” Dr. Jacqueline Dougé, a Maryland pediatrician and an author of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health, told TODAY Parents. “It also sends a message when it comes time to deal with hard conversations and hard issues … that perception that child has is, ‘I’m not going to be able to open up my (parents).’”
What’s more, parents need to help their children navigate an overwhelming reality and doing so in a transparent way bolsters the child-parent relationship.
“Children are looking to their parents to filter the world for them. It’s their parents’ responsibility to make sense of the world — and the world can be a big and scary place without somebody to help,” Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, chair of the AAP section on minority health, equity and inclusion, told TODAY Parents. “To have a long lasting and enduring, nurturing relationship with your kids being honest is really important.”
Sometimes parents shy away from a topic because they might not understand it well. But admitting to not knowing shows kids that parents are human — and are willing to look for an answer. The AAP, the American Psychological Association and Embrace Race all have talking points for parents to discuss race, for example.
“It is OK not to know how to talk about (a topic) and not exactly know what to say,” Dougé said.
And, parents should trust that they get their kids and their needs.
“We’re the experts of our children. No one knows our children better than we do,” Heard-Garris said. “We’re experts in knowing how much they can handle, when is the right time to talk.”
But being silent can give children unrealistic views.
“If we brush it under the carpet … the message we are giving to our children is racism doesn’t exist, races don’t exist,” Annette Nunez, a psychotherapist in private practice in Denver, told TODAY Parents. “Racism does exist … it’s really important to talk about it.”