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As a parent (future, impending, new or veteran), we are challenged to cope with these unsettling times, and to help children who are experiencing and witnessing the mayhem related to the pandemic, and now social unrest.
It’s not just us.
The world is challenged by COVID-19 and more recently, the growing protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia . Now more than ever, we all need to become committed to personal introspection and to gather our thoughts so we can later help our kids make sense of it all.
Parents no longer have the luxury to just ignore it because the world, companies, influencers, brands, schools, political figures and seemingly everyone is saying something…finally!
A lot of parents, especially non-black parents, may struggle how to broach to topic because they themselves do not know how to process it, know what to say, know how to say it and may experience anxiety, fear and uncertainty on how their message will be received.
I write to share my thoughts in hopes they may serve as a guide.
Ultimately, on the protests, fires and violence, you can try to shelter children but understand that if they are online, or have eyes or ears, they will hear and see what’s going on and may ask questions.
Using simple, age-appropriate wordsm explain that people are upset with a bad incident and are protesting to let the people in charge know they are not happy because this bad incident has happened before and they do not want it to happen again.
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Race may be a complicated topic but if you feel your child can understand, you can go ahead and let them know that while everyone should be treated equally without regards to what they look like on the outside and what skin they have, that is not always the case. And people are upset and demanding that things change so everyone can feel safe, especially our black friends, neighbors and family.
You can let them know that it is a complicated and complex problem that adults, and in particular those in charge of certain institutions, have to deal with and hopefully, we will make progress.
They should not be burdened that they bear any personal role, though you can tell them that they should always treat everyone with kindness but let them know that the problem is bigger than just one-on-one individual actions of kindness. Bigger systems need to work in order to make the type of changes people are looking for.
If you feel you need to address the fires, violence and looting, you can let them know that there are bad people who are not protestors who have sadly gone to where the protestors are and that they causing more ruckus and mayhem.
It is upsetting to you and the protestors because they think their voice may get drowned out by these other guys.
The government is stepping in to try to weed out the bad apples mixed in with peaceful protestors, but some people think it may be too much force and getting even more upset.
Again, let them know that these are adult matters and we adults are in charge of working all of this out.
You can give them a sense of understanding that what is happening is not anything they can control but that you have hope things will work out eventually and in the end, if not soon, in the future.
For older teens, if you are comfortable discussing, you can let them know that the uprisings in protests around the United States and solidarity marches and demonstrations around the world call our attention to the cause: the systematic and institutional abuse of power and authority that has resulted in repeated instances of police-involved killings of unarmed black men, women and children in America, many times when the victims are innocent of any wrongdoing.
There is a lot of scholarship and articles summarizing the problem you can find online. Here is one that I recommend: https://www.tolerance.org/moment/racism-and-police-violence
They should know that a lot of people are taking to the streets also because they are tired of being stuck at home because of Stay-home orders and calls for social distancing.
They have decided to join those people who are frustrated with being restrained from critizing authories and once again calling for reform to ensure all citizens are treated with human dignity and respect during police encounters.
It’s a mixed bag of a lot of different people with different agendas and looks like a mess.
Nonetheless, let them know the focus must remain on the cause of the uprising and not the tragedy and property losses that are the effect.
Ideally, all lives should matter when it comes to the exercise of caution by police to limit civilian death outcomes. Sadly, history has shown that is not the case as one racial class of people is persistently killed at an alarming disporptionate rate compared to their population in America and with impunity.
There are several initiatives and ways to get involved, demand action of elected officials, or donate to the cause of those doing the hard work to improve this situation for the betterment of all, and in particular black citizens in this nation.
I hope this helps.
Stay healthy and Safe out there!