The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd has been a topic of conversation in many homes over the past several weeks, and will continue to be as the trial outcome nears. In addition, the community has felt additional upset due to the killings of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center and Adam Toledo in Chicago.
So, many parents are wondering: what impact could this have on kids and their mental and emotional health? The trial and the upcoming outcome of the trial could be re-traumatizing for some children, especially black, indigenous and children of color.
Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, provides advice for families during this challenging time.
Tips for parents during the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd
What is the best way for parents to handle the news of the trial?
Prepare your kids for what they may see and hear
There is a lot of media coverage on this trial — nationally and internationally. Due to the physical preparations the city made, some families may be directly impacted. All of this can be overwhelming to kids, and it’s important to be mindful of this. If it feels overwhelming to you, it is more than overwhelming for kids and you have to be thinking of how kids are absorbing it.
Talk to your kids
As parents, make sure to set aside time and check in with your kids. “Lean in to this. This is your opportunity to hear how your kids are processing this, to understand where they’re at in they’re thinking,” said Dr. Chawla. Allow your kids to express their feelings openly and honestly.
Don’t shelter your kids
It’s important to not shelter your children from this news – use it to start a conversation about race, racism and structural racism. “You don’t have to be an expert on this at all, none of us are,” said Dr. Chawla. These are going to be hard conversations.
Parents should take the opportunity to show that they are listening and learning in this space so kids get the message that we all need to continue learning — whether you’re a child or an adult.
What if my child wants to be part of a protest or movement?
Movements and expanded-thinking typically start with kids and young people — kids change us for the better. It’s important to help kids find a way to be engaged safely. Dr. Chawla said, “There’s all sorts of opportunities for kids to be involved.”
Here’s a great example and idea: Last year in Louisville, Ky., there was a children’s march advocating for justice for Breonna Taylor. You could organize one in your neighborhood so your kids can participate – while staying safe from COVID-19 (wear masks, social distance, etc.)
This will be overwhelming–how can I help my child through that?
- Balance: Balance is important. Parents will need to help their kids find ways to stay informed but also unplug from the media at times.
- Activities: Encourage other activities. In the evenings or weekends—get outside, go for a walk, go to the playground, read a book or play a game. Parents need to take care of themselves too; if you are anxious or angry, kids are going to be affected.
- Physical symptoms: Kids can take on physical symptoms when they are overwhelmed, too. Symptoms of this can range from behavioral changes to sleep changes to stomach pains. Be watchful for those and reach out to your pediatrician for guidance.
Children’s Minnesota Behavior Health Support Hub
Times like this can be especially hard for kids to understand. The experts at Children’s Minnesota offer all kinds of resources for parents to help their children cope. You can find help on the Children’s Minnesota Behavior Health Support Hub: Living Now.