June 8, 2020 -- Widespread protests in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and countless other unjust killings of Black Americans throughout our country's history have brought the issues of racism and racial injustice to the forefront of family conversations.
Parents with children of all ages are seeking information on how to communicate with their children about such a difficult topic. Kristen Davis, the president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, shared the following statement and advice for parents:
"We are heartbroken at the senseless loss of Black lives in our country and join with so many others in calling for it to end. These deaths stem from decades of racism and racial bias, which can only be rooted out by having open, honest conversations within our homes and communities. We believe parents are a child's first and most important teacher, and they have the opportunity to shape their children's perspective on all facets of life, including issues of race. Avoiding the subject only leads to misunderstanding. We want to help all parents feel equipped to talk with their children and listen to their concerns. No one is expected to have all the answers. It's simply about helping children feel safe, heard and loved. Here are a few things parents should consider:
- It's important for younger children, including toddlers and preschoolers, to be taught that differences in how people look is a good thing -- it makes us who we are.
- School-age children are capable of understanding that no one should be judged based on their race and that our country has a long history of racism that we're still struggling to overcome.
- Teenagers are old enough to discuss news coverage with their parents, although young people should consume only a moderate amount of news about any traumatic situation.
- Parents should ask their children open-ended questions that give them room to express how they feel and what they think.
- Misguided points of view can be challenged in a supportive way by asking "why do you think that?" or "have you ever considered that ..."
If parents need additional guidance, we operate a free helpline they can call with any type of parenting question 24/7. The number is 1-800-CHILDREN. Our goal as an organization is to help families build nurturing homes that support the healthy development of their children. Our work helps break generational cycles of poverty and abuse, which can result from racial disparities and other social inequities. Most importantly, we believe it's incumbent upon all of us, as a community, to help raise the next generation in a way that allows them to lead healthy, happy lives, and equipping the next generation to be anti-racist and to help them live in a society without racial barriers is an important part of that."