Racism is something that is learned. As parents our job is to ensure that it is never learned
It's difficult to find the words to describe the events that are happening in this world right now. There is so much hate, so much anger and so much heartache rippling through every country. Racism remains at the epicenter of it all. We are reminded not to center ourselves in it but to put our energies in to steering change. To amplify the voices that struggle to be heard.
As parents one way that we can do that is to help our children to be compassionate, inclusive and kind human beings. Part of that involves a certain level of education about the parts of life that do not reflect those qualities.
Your children may be aware, on some level, that the world is experiencing a very big event right now. They may be piecing it all together with the little snippets of information they are seeing and hearing. It is important that this information is coming from a trusted person. Here are some tips about how you can speak to your children about racism and protests.
Speak About It In An Age Appropriate Way
Speak the truth and approach the subject from a place of honesty but in a way that is age appropriate. The last thing any parent wants to do is instill fear and anxiety in their child. It would not be appropriate to show a young child violent videos and photographs but it may be helpful to talk openly about the different nationalities in their school and to focus on themes of equality.
Racism is something that is learned. As parents our job is to ensure that it is never learned. A huge amount of that learning comes from watching the way we speak and approach different races.
Use Books That Celebrate Diversity
Books are a powerful way to reach children. Story time tends to be a time they approach with their full attention. It is also a time of quiet and this can promote good communication and asking questions. Books that celebrate diversity help our children to explore the different backgrounds and realities for different races and communities. Through the stories we can help them understand that life can contain more, less or different kinds of struggles depending on your race.
Lead By Example
Children do as they see. As parents and guardians we are their greatest influencers. They learn so much about social and emotional health from us. Have you ever noticed your children displaying mannerisms or a tone of voice that is uncannily similar to your own? Quite often they literally mimic us.
Pay attention to your attitude, your expressions and your language when it comes to people of different races. Until now you may not have realized that any of it was a problem. It may not be either. Designate time to educating yourself and unlearning anything that will not serve your children and future generations.
Start With Compassion And Empathy
When it comes to racism compassion is often the missing ingredient. Recognizing your privilage and acknowledging the struggles of other people helps things change. It opens up the conversation and with that comes revelations. It is difficult for children to process the fact that the world can be unfair to some people, but exploring that topic helps instill compassion. When children feel compassion and empathy they want the world to be a more just place.
Demonstrating compassion and empathy with all people is a good place to start.
Ask Thought Provoking Questions
Some children are inquisitive and daily life is full to the brim of questions. For other children that may not be the case. Asking open ended thought provoking questions can open up a conversation about race. Those questions could relate to the idea of a protest and what that means.
Helping a child understand why people want and need change is a challenge but we all have to start somewhere. They may have picked up on the fact that protesters are angry and that may scare them. Re-phrasing it and explaining that this anger has come from the fact that that somebody has hurt a person that they love, could be helpful.
Choose Media Wisely
When you buy books or choose a movie on Netflix, do you try to include a variety of races? This helps normalise diversity for your child. It makes inclusiveness more natural and in turn will ensure that racism is not learnt in the first place.