How To Talk To Younger Children About Racism In America
Racism is top of mind right now, because of what happened to George Floyd. It's nearly impossible to escape the daily news about the aftermath of his senseless death, and sooner or later, your younger children are going to hear about racism, if they haven't already.
As a former mental health counselor, I can share with you the most effective way to talk to your kids about racism in America. It's a method that can be used for many difficult conversations.:
Children are naturally curious, which is a good thing. Don't stifle their curiosity. They probably want to ask you questions about what they are hearing on TV, as well as from you, when you think they are not listening. They also might be getting information from other kids and from other people. Let them know you are available to address their concerns. Even if your children don't ask you any questions (They may not know how to start the conversation.), you can say something such as "There is a lot going on in the world today, and if you want to talk about it or have any questions, even a little question, you can come to me anytime. I'm here, and I won't get mad about anything you say."
First of all and most importantly, answer their questions honestly. Don't lie or avoid the topic. Use words that are age-appropriate. Explain it to them using simple words that are at their level of understanding. Don't use scary words such as "murder," and don't give too many details.
Secondly, stay positive in both your words and body language. Don't try to frighten your kids and don't have a "the world is ending" mentality. If they are afraid, let them know it is okay to feel that way. Tell them that sometimes you get scared, too.
Assure your children that you and they are safe from harm. If they are hearing about the violent protests, assure them that those people are far away from where you live, and they won't come inside the house.
Finally, if you don't know the answer, say you don't know. Don't exaggerate, or repeat a rumor that you heard. Stick to the facts from a reliable source.
There are also many parenting resources and children's books on how to talk to kids about racism. See below for more information.