As parents, it can be challenging to have difficult conversations with our children. We hope these points will help you to have or to continue to have sensitive, social-related conversations with your child throughout their development. The balance between protecting your child's innocence and educating them about the world can be done at any stage in their development. It's the "how" that is important.
Empower your child by having open and honest conversations with him/her/them, throughout their lives, about racial inequality, social injustice, the political landscape of our times, and other social topics.
When to start? NOW and do not stop.
Be one of the families that help change the world for the better!
Together we are stronger!
Here are a few tips to guide parents in talking to their children about sensitive social topics.
There is always time for life lessons.
There is always a good time to discuss others' positive and negative behaviors that support or go against your family, school, and community's beliefs and values. Please talk about the positive and negative differences and your expectations for their behaviors. Leave space for silence as they process the information that you have shared with them. Listen to their thoughts, questions, and opinions at the moment. This is a great moment to validate their views and provide guidance on the best way your family plans to respond or behave based on the topic(s) of discussion. It would be best if you were honest with your child. It's ok to share with them how you feel about the issue as well.
Celebrate and appreciate diversity.
It is ok to acknowledge and appreciate physical differences, economic differences, and differences of ability and opinion. Your child is not blind. They have noticed differences since being in the womb. It is not ok to make negative judgments based on those differences. Please do not stop there; help them to notice and appreciate commonalities too. Exposing them to various perspectives in life helps them grow and empathize with others even when others' perspective differs from theirs. Teach them how to stand firm in their beliefs while respecting the view of others. This is where their character can shine the brightest.
Practice fairness, inclusion, and respect for every opportunity, every day.
In everyday life, make a habit of pointing out examples of racial equality and inequality of social justice and injustice. As parents, you have probably said to your child, "actions speak louder than words." That statement also applies to us as parents. Model the values and beliefs of your family in everyday life. Please take the opportunity to point them out to your child and affirm them when they respond in kind. At times you may fail; take responsibility for that and show your child how to react when they fail. No one is perfect.
Talking to your children about sensitive social related topics can leave an impact that will be with them for the rest of their lives and may impact their social and emotional development positively.
We recognize that these could be challenging topics to talk about as adults and even more challenging to talk about with your kids. The first step in having sensitive conversations with your child is to give yourself space as a parent to review the facts and connect with your feelings about the topic. This step will help to distinguish between talking with and educating your child or venting and processing the information with your child. Sometimes situations happen where you may not have a moment to process what you have heard or seen out of their presence. However, as much as possible, try to be fully present to listen and help your child through their emotions. Give yourself grace when you cannot. It is healthy for your child to see you express feelings. Their eyes are on you and how you handle your emotions. Some sensitive social conversations you will continue to build upon as they grow. Some conversations are passed across generations. You may be setting the framework for future generational discussions as well.
There is no such thing as "too early" to talk to your child about the landscape of the world around them.
Whether the topic is about our political climate, protests, riots, murders of unarmed people, police brutality, or other sensitive social issues, the best and safest place for children of all ages to learn about sensitive topics is from the people around them who they trust: parents, teachers, and other trustworthy adults in their life. If we do not address these sensitive topics with them, they will learn about them from another source that may or may not mirror your beliefs or the truth.
Stick to the facts.
When discussing information such as protests, riots, murders of unarmed people, police brutality, etc., communicate age-appropriate facts. Stick to the facts first. As parents, we are the gatekeepers of information for our children. There are many news sources these days—even more blogs and opinion-based forms of media that may look like creditable sources. Be the gatekeeper of information. They may hear conflicting information from friends, other family members, or various social media outlets. Be their trusted source. Also, be mindful of the conversations you have when in your children's presence about sensitive topics. They may not look as though they are listening, but they are.
You are their protector and their guide.
Let your child know that you are there to help them process the topic of discussion and that you as a family are there to protect them; comfort and security are crucial. After a few hours or a day or two, follow up with your child about the topics discussed to see if additional comments, thoughts, or feelings may have come up since the discussion. See if they have ideas on how they would want to respond to the situation. Offer them words of comfort, security, and protection. Daily routines and predictability can help provide some of the security that children need. Provide them with ways to cope and healthy ways to release any emotions that they may have. Be proactive. Be their guide.
Together we are stronger.
Please speak with the trusted adults in their lives about related social topics that you have discussed with your child. It is appropriate for parents to talk to their children about a sensitive social issue and ask questions or communicate their thoughts and feelings at school, during sports practice, or any form of activity outside of the home. You would want the trusted adults in their life to reinforce, not contradict, what you are teaching them. If nothing else, give the trusted adult a heads up on the discussion and how you addressed it with your child if the topic comes up outside of the home.