Have you turned on the news to see protesters on your community streets? If so, your kids may questions. Young kids especially may have asked why people were holding signs or why they seemed angry or upset. The news reports on the protests demanding change have started to grab the attention of many people. If you haven't had a chance to talk with your kids so they can make sense of the current events, we offer some tips below for answering their questions and resources parents can use to start a conversation.
A Teachable Moment
We can foster a more just and caring society when we teach children at an early age to have empathy and to treat everyone with respect and care. The protests and the protesters' demands for change present an opportunity to share your values and beliefs about how we should interact with those around us.
Children as young as three years old begin to notice different races and skin colors. One way to start a conversation may be to compare your skin tone with theirs, noting how your skin looks different. Tell them that EVERYONE has differences, but skin color, height, etc. are part of who we are and what makes us unique. Every child is different. Parents know their children best, and they know what topics their child can handle, but it is crucial to talk to children about race early.
How can parents prepare themselves?
Doing the next steps might make it easier for parents and kids to talk about sensitive topics like race.
Questions Children Might Ask
The events you see on TV might make kids feel scared and worried, so talking about it can help them cope with their feelings. The goal is to teach them the importance of taking care of themselves and their community while ensuring they feel safe and secure.
For instance, how we use our words when talking to someone or about someone can be helpful or hurtful. At HealthStart, we teach kids the importance of taking care of themselves and others through our Health Education For Youngsters Curriculum and other programs. Our curriculum includes lessons like, "Words that Pollute." This lesson reminds kids that words can be used as tools or as weapons, and we cannot unhear hurtful words.
When you begin to talk with your kids about race and the protests, it might be helpful to explain some of the things they might see on TV. Below we have listed some questions that kids might ask and ideas for answering them.
Why are there so many people? Why are they yelling?
Many people are coming together to protest. In a protest, people come together to show that they are upset about something that is happening. They often hold signs and say phrases that tell people why they are unhappy. Protesters yell these words to make others aware of the problem they see. By coming together, they hope to drive change.
Why are they upset?
Many protestors are upset because people have been treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. Racism is when someone mistreats another person because of the color of their skin. You know that it is super important to treat everyone with kindness, even if they look different than you, but not everyone does this.
Racism is hurtful and wrong. Black people, especially, have been wronged due to the way they look. Many Black people and others who disagree with racism are protesting to help end racism.
Can we make racism go away?
Yes, we can. First, we must always be kind and respectful to everyone, with no exceptions. What should you do if your friend says something mean and hurtful because of the way someone looks (or for any reason)? You can ask them to stop. When we speak up, we teach people that it is not ok to say mean things.
We hope that these resources will spark a conversation between you and your children. While talks alone will not end racism, this is an excellent first step, because our children indeed are our future, and with our help, they can lead the way to a healthier and more just future for all.