Dearest Moms who are reading this,
I am hearing from so many of you.
My heart is breaking with what is happening right now in our country.
As protests, riots, and looting have broken out across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, so have questions in our community on how to approach these important and difficult conversations with our kids.
I don’t claim to have the answers. All I know is I can’t stay silent. I can’t neglect our need to have the hard important conversations about racism. We need guidance. We need healing. We need to be educated to fight against racism and we need to be talking to our children.
My intention in writing this is to provide some humble guidance on how to even begin to talk about what is happening and how we can join together and fight racism and stand for what is good, right, and healing and help our children to do the same.
How do we talk about racism and what is going on in our country when we’re not sure how? I myself struggle to know how to navigate these hard conversations.
As a white woman, who grew up and raised my kids in a very “vanilla” community (as my daughter describes it), conversations rarely came up besides “we treat everyone with respect regardless of the color of their skin” and “God created us all equal and loves us all no matter what the color of our skin.”
While I believe this with all my heart, I wish it was that simple.
It’s interesting how quickly our perspective can change…
Five years ago, my bi-racial granddaughter was born. Several years later my bi-racial grandson came into the world.
I was confronted head-on with my ignorance.
This ripped off my rose-colored glasses and opened up my eyes. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be black. I’m sad that my daughter will have to have “the talk” with my grandson which is totally different from “the talk” I had with my kids about the birds and the bees.
If there will be a positive that comes out of all this, my hope is that we, along with our children, will educate and challenge ourselves to imagine what it feels like to be black and enter into these difficult conversations about racism with our kids.
I write this because like me, maybe you don’t know how to talk about what is happening with your kids. Maybe like me, you don’t have all the answers or feel very confident.
I want to provide you (and me) with some resources to help us to talk to our kids – to expand our minds, challenge our beliefs and viewpoints, and provide us with new perspectives because when we do, we can change our world to become a safer, more compassionate, understanding, and kinder place.
First, here are 3 tips to help you to listen more and stay open-minded with your tweens and teens…
In order to be humble, we need to be willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers. What we can do is join our kids in educating ourselves and asking important questions.
This requires that we be in the right frame of mind when we have these conversations so we can stay open to hearing what our kids have to say and putting aside our own agendas.
Avoid the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ conversation.
Chances are it will be tempting to tell your kids what they should think or to get into a debate.
Instead, seek to have a conversation free of your own agenda – that they can process what they think and wrestle with these issues to come to their own understanding.
These questions are to challenge us to expand and push ourselves out of our comfort zone and encourage us to celebrate differences and be more inclusive.
If you notice yourself getting especially reactive, be curious about why this might be. What belief might you be bumping up against? Is there fear, sadness, confusion?
Questions for Discussion:
When questioned tweens and teens might often answer us with an “I don’t know” answer. Make sure to pick a good time. Sometimes it can be more effective to ask them about the unfairness that they’ve experienced in their lives or witnessed in the lives of others.
Ask them what they know, have heard, and what they have seen. How are they feeling about it? What has been upsetting? What is inspiring?
Listen and validate their feelings.
How might you define racism or bias? Look up the definition.
(The definition of bias – “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.)
How might you, me, or our family be racist or biased?
What stories might we be making up about people before we know who they actually are?
How many authentic relationships do we have with black people. . . or others who are different from us?
How might we be racist and not even know it?
As a family do we celebrate differences? Do I (as a woman and mom) celebrate differences or am I more comfortable hanging with my tribe?
If the answer is yes, why might this be? How might I (we) change this?
Research together and educate yourselves on what comments are racist that you may not be aware that you might say.
How might you get involved to help fight racism?
Research what it means to have “the talk” when it comes to black parents talking to their children.
Research the black history and ask questions such as, “What do you think it would have been like to be a slave, to be a black student during segregation, etc.”
What would you stand up for? What would you do if you were at a peaceful rally and it turned violent?
What would you do if your friends asked you to go to a rally who’s purpose you didn’t agree with?
Watch a movie or documentary that can help to spark discussion and educate you and your kids on the history of discrimination. I included a link below to a list.
Resources and thought-provoking articles to help you spark tough but necessary conversations about race relations with your kids:
Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Common Sense Media, a non-profit that rates movies, TV shows, books, apps and other media for parents and schools, has curated a list of 80 books with diverse, multi-cultural characters for all ages, and movies that discuss racism, inspire kids to make a difference for good in the world.