The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black people who have been killed by police has given rise to candid global, national and local conversations about racism. Talking about racism and injustice is not easy, but must not be ignored. As parents, grandparents and role models for children, it is our responsibility to educate children, despite the unease that we may feel.
Here are some ways to talk with children about inequality, along with some resources.
Find age-appropriate books and movies that talk about experiences of inequality and racism. Public libraries are starting to re-open and can be an excellent source. Call your local library and ask to speak with the children’s librarian or reference desk for suggestions. Read books with your child, ask questions, answer their questions, and have conversations about the books.
Allow Children to Express Their Feelings
Allow children to express their own feelings and participate in peaceful action. Children can make signs to hang on the door and chalk drawings in the driveway. Older children can write letters to the editor of their local paper and government officials. Model compassion and encourage your child to take actions to help others. These actions might be donating to an organization or volunteering to help victims of racism.
Talk with Your Child
As children enter middle school and have more exposure to different perspectives, parents of black and brown children might start having conversations about how other people may perceive them. It is important to listen to your child, validate their feelings and have ongoing conversations. Racism is not a “one and done” conversation, it should continue as long as injustice lasts in our society.
Set a Positive Tone
Be calm and reassuring. Adults don’t always have answers and that is okay. The topics of inequality and racial justice are complex. What is most important is that you are present for your child, you talk with them at age-appropriate levels, and you help them learn about the world through experiences and education.
Here are some resources families might find useful as they talk with children about racism: