Our world is in a massive state of torment & grief right now – a global pandemic, record-breaking job loss, a bitterly divisive political climate, and yet again the public lynching of another unarmed African-American by the hands of the police. With parents already having to pivot and balance quarantine life, it may feel especially challenging to protect our children amidst a social protest movement and civil unrest.
As difficult as this is to process, the reality is that we must confront what’s going on right now – the issue of racism & oppression that’s been going on in this country. Our next generation is watching how we respond and show up for one another. What’s more, we are obligated to raise compassionate human beings who become responsible citizens in a just & equitable society.
Our children and youth are aware of what’s going on. They collect information from social media, talking with friends, music/pop culture, and overheard family conversations. All too often Black and African-American children learn from their own lived experiences and the felt anguish of their loved ones. The horrific images of publicized brutality and murders of all gendered Black, Indigenous, People of Color can be unnerving for children & youth.
For Black and African-American families, discussions about race, including having “The Talk” is commonplace and has become a painful necessity with our children. The Talk happens early and evolves over time rather than a singular conversation. Evidence indicates that Black and African-American children are often perceived as older and less innocent than they are. Such adultification for Black girls can begin as young as age 5 and for Black boys, it can begin by age 10. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 91% of Black and African-American LGBTQ+ youth have experienced racial discrimination, while 41% of Black and African-American transgendered and gender-expansive youth have been physically threatened.
How these affronts are handled by a family can shape a child’s sense of self and have lasting effects on how they view and interact with the world around them. Such cultural & vicarious trauma can affect a young person’s feeling of safety and cause anxiety, irritability or low mood, and emotional/behavior dysregulation. They may be navigating these feelings alone if we are not intentional to engage them.
Parents can use our current events as a catalyst for change to bond and strengthen family values. Consider the following as you help your child navigate these confounding times to build better tomorrow.
Start with You – Take care of your mental/emotional health first. Have a regular practice of self-care.
Age Matters – Let your child’s age, developmental stage, and maturity level guide the content of the conversation.
Self-Love As Core – Affirm your child’s innate good, strengths and their boundless ability to affect change.
Disconnect – Monitor & limit your child’s exposure to all media outlets.
Guide & Validate – Regularly initiate conversations with your child about their feelings. Validating their experience will help build awareness of their feelings and develop language to express their inner experience.
Prioritize Truth – Provide a societal context of racism in order to explain the rage of protestors. Rage is a symptom of a broken & unjust system. Doing so helps to build empathy and teach perspective.
Stay Focused – Focus your attention on the real problem of dismantling white supremacy & systemic oppression. This can shift your child’s fear of a specific group of people.
Joy As Resistance – Be present in each moment celebrating life and making space for family fun!
Celebrate BIPOC Narratives – Humanize the existence of BIPOC and acknowledge our plight in this country; lift up our achievements and triumphs of perseverance to teach resilience; support Black and African-American owned business.
Honor Diversity – Celebrate the uniqueness & difference of all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and genders. Incorporate toys, movies, books in your child’s life that highlight multi-racial characters.
Be Purposeful – Seek opportunities for activism and channel highly-charged energy to positive actions to dismantle racial structures within your local community.
Include Spirit – Develop a daily practice of meditation/prayer, deep breathing, or moments of stillness to increase a sense of connection, grounding, and clarity.
Seek Support – Seek family counseling if things become too stressful for your child or family.