Mighty Blog

Talking to your children about racism

In light of recent tragic events in Minneapolis, and across the country, many parents are wondering how to help their children of all ages cope with what is happening.

Following the death of George Floyd, many kids have witnessed large peaceful protests alongside rioting and burning. Many families aren’t just seeing it on the news or social media, but living in the neighborhoods where it’s happening.

Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, talked with WCCO and provided families with advice surrounding this topic and recent events.

Why is it important for parents to talk with their kids about what happened to George Floyd and the issue of racism?

Dr. Chawla said, “The most important message to send to your children is: Do not shelter them from this, instead, start a conversation.” Some families might feel like it’s too much to talk to their kids about, or their kids might not understand racism or fully get why people are mad. Unfortunately, this type of sheltering is at the heart of the problem in the first place.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a policy statement about racism’s impact on the development and health outcomes of kids.

Racism is our reality, like how COVID-19 is our reality. And, just like the pandemic, we need to join together to find solutions. We understand parents may feel uncomfortable talking about these topics, and they may even need to do some learning themselves in order to help their child learn.

How does that conversation about racism start? Are there resources for parents?

It’s important for kids to feel like they can share their feelings. Rather than waiting for your kids to come to you, start the conversation yourself. To start, we recommend asking what your kids know or have heard about George Floyd’s death, as well as racism. Share your own feelings. During times of tragedy, kids look to their parents and watch how they react and listen to what they say.

The next step after you talk about your feelings and your children’s feelings is to ask. Ask what your kids hear, ask what they know. Once you ask, parents can also then correct any misconceptions and ensure their kids are getting the full picture.

“The last part is to take those moments to really teach,” Dr. Chawla said. “Teach things like saying that ‘all lives matter’ is something that hides racism instead of highlighting Black Lives Matter or Brown Lives Matter, which really get to the heart of racism and what we need to help correct.”

Are there resources for parents?

There are plenty of children’s books out there written to help parents talk to their kids about racism. There are books designed for different age groups; from baby to pre-teen.

The book “Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside” is for ages 6 and up and has a powerful message that important for kids. It tells the story of two black children who hear protests against police violence outside their home. In addition, the book discusses different ways people can protest.

Today’s Parent, a Canadian parenting source, provides parents with 27 books to help talk to your kids about racism.

How can parents get involved and help their children act?

Having discussions about racism and talking about recent events is extremely important. But, so is finding ways to act during these times. Kids may come to you about finding ways to help. They may be feeling helpless, overwhelmed or empowered and want to help be part of the solution.

What does this action look like?

After the fires and destruction, kids and parents could help clean up a neighborhood or volunteer at a local food shelf. Children could raise money to donate to the causes that are combating racism.

The website Twin Cities Aid Distribution Locations coordinates aid and care for families, neighborhoods, small businesses and more in the Twin Cities. In addition, The Star Tribune offers ways you can help people impacted by riots happening in Minneapolis.

Alexandra Rothstein