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How to have conversations about race, racism, and social justice with your children

"Dr. Tasha, What Does Black Lives Matter Mean"?

That was the question that my adolescent patient asked me shortly after witnessing the murder of George Floyd from his smartphone early that day. Although I knew these questions would come up in my practice when I faced them, coming from young children, I must admit that I was heartbroken.

As the week progressed, I was faced with similar questions from children of all age groups and races. I thought deeply about the best way to navigate a conversation about race, racism, and social justice in those moments.

In this episode, I share resources to help adults navigate these conversations and what non-black families can do to support the community.

I recognize that having these conversations with children and adolescents can be extremely difficult for many adults, so I want to share two conversation starters that parents and caregivers can use.

Children listen to what we say, but they pay special attention to our behavior. When our emotions are high, it's best to deal with them before engaging with children.

Conversation Openers:

Adults can become frustrated when they try to have an open dialogue with children. While I can understand the frustration, it is essential to remember that children don't communicate like adults. Your child may not be immediately ready to have the conversation.

If your child is not ready to talk -try the following phrases:

You might not be ready to have this conversation now, but I am here if you want to talk.

When you initiate the conversation, you let your child know that you are open and available to talk. By keeping the lines open to communication, children feel safe to express themselves when they're ready. When your child is prepared to speak, your goal is to listen. Listening to what your child is saying and tuning into their questions gives you a lot of information that can help you guide the conversation.

How do you feel about what's happening?

It's a good idea to ask your child explicitly how they feel. Direct questions are essential when children are exposed to a traumatic incident. Key conversation openers are: "I'm know you have heard what is going on, how are your feeling?" or " Do you have any questions about what your have been hearing?”

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