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by Dr. Brad Schwall
| Parenting, Children, Adolescents, Teens, Families, Protests, Racism

Talking to your kids about the protests

Our kids are naturally curious. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to answer questions – sometimes hard questions. Where do we start?

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We’re living in a complicated world with racial upheaval and police brutality – all while managing our families all in the midst of a global pandemic.

The images we’re seeing across the nation related to George Floyd’s death are overwhelming. His death has sparked sometimes violent protests nationwide and around the world. Then add a 24-hour news cycle, blogs and social media channels.

Our kids are naturally curious. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to answer questions – sometimes hard questions. Where do we start?

Remember, our kids follow our lead. Listen. Read. Understand.

Consider your culture, personal experience, history, and systems. We have the most influence over our immediate community, our family, our churches, our schools. Perspective taking means truly trying to understand the other’s experience.

We must recognize that we can’t fully understand what someone else has gone through. This fact requires us to be humble and respectful. We can only view the world from our own experience and background and can’t know exactly what others are facing. But, we can seek to listen and learn, be empathetic.

Our children and our community are facing much trauma, but we can turn that around. We can be constructive and analyze what is happening to discern our best response. There have been many great peaceful protests including a gathering of churches who prayed together downtown on Sunday. Emphasize these expressions to your kids. This helps them to see past the violence.

Talk about the feelings your children see. What is the anger, sadness, the grief about? Focus on empathy. Teach perspective taking. Perspective taking means truly seeking to understand another’s experience. We must seek perspective before we can understand. Encourage positive action.

Ask your child how he or she can make a difference. What can you do in your daily interactions to respect differences. Learn together. Look for reading materials to educate yourselves about race and culture. Talk to people of other races.

Communicate to your child that he or she matters and deserves to be treated with respect. Don’t be afraid to talk about race. Look for those who are examples of peacemakers. The key to loving others is knowing others.

When we are humble we can be open and become more aware. Certainly, there is a mental health intersection with all of this happening. Seeing violence is stressful. The events bring up peoples past hurt and even generational pain.

One key aspect of justice is accessibility to health care and specifically, mental health care. We must work together to reduce stigma about mental health challenges and seeking counseling. Recognize that stress, anxiety and trauma do not mean that we are weak. There are physiological and psychological influences on our well-being.

As we talk about well-being, recognize that emotion connects us all. Commit to being well. Commit to being supportive and caring. The only way through uncertain times is through our faith and our belief in the positive that we can find in our world and in others.

Children's Books & Resources:

  1. God’s Very Good Idea
  2. God Made Me and You
  3. I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World)
  4. Books for kids on race and social justice
  5. Children's books by black authors and illustrators
  6. Children's Books for Black History Month- Huff Post
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