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Your Healthy Family: Talking to your kids about racism and social unrest

Posted at 6:14 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 20:16:17-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Trying to explain to our kids what’s happening in our society right now can be challenging to say the least. Racism, hatred, anger, can all be difficult and uncomfortable conversations with our kids.

In our last story, (SEE HERE) we talked about how we as adults can be aware of and deal with our own emotions and anger around these issues and how our reactions to them can affect our kids.

Dr. Jenna Glover, PhD, MS, BS, with Children's Hospital Colorado says it's important to have these challenging conversations with our kids even if we as parents are uncomfortable.

“One of the most difficult parts of this for parents is just being willing to be uncomfortable and knowing that there's not a right or wrong way to have the conversation. The most important thing is to have the conversation. The easiest thing is to just go directly to your kids and ask them what they know about what's going on.”

These conversations will look differently for different children of different ages. Dr. Glover says, “For younger kids you might just explain to them, ‘There was a person who was hurt and they were supposed to be protected. If you heard anything about that, do you have questions about it?’ Have a conversation with them on that level and then let them know how the family feels.”

For older kids, you can bet whether you have talked with them about all this or not, they have heard about the protests, riots and unrest.

Dr. Glover says, “For older kids they're definitely going to have heard about this. They're carrying around media in their pocket. Ask them what inspires them about these protests, what is upsetting to them about these protests and what their opinions are. Then you can just help them come to their own conclusions.”

As a parent you don’t need to have the answers to complex social problems to have a conversation with your kids. Dr. Glover explains, “The most important thing we can do is create that space to listen to kids, and be honest and direct with them, that is a very important part of this. Rather than telling them, ‘Everything is going to be okay.’ or ‘You don't need to worry about that.’ Just authenticate their feelings, and say, ‘I hear what you're saying and what your saying makes sense.”

Dr. Glover also says there are signs to look for even if your child is telling you they are okay emotionally that would suggest getting professional help might be a good idea.

“One of the first things that we tell parents to look for, is if there's major changes in their eating habits or their sleeping habits. Either a lot more eating or sleeping or a lot less. More irritability in teens is a really big sign that something is wrong. It seems like they're triggered really easily or they just stay irritable for a long period of time. Finally if you find they're isolating from their friends as well as family, that's a good sign that something is going on, and they are not doing as well as they say they are.”

Finally, Dr. Glover says, If you still are not sure how to have that talk there are a lot of resources that can help you get started. “There are resources out there and I think reading through some of those resources can help alleviate some of the anxieties parents may be having about having these conversations. At Children's Hospital Colorado we have a great resource that walks parents through how to have these conversations and provides questions and prompts so you can have those conversations.”

To learn more about how to talk to your children about racism and national protests, you can visit: (https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/parenting/parenting-articles/talk-about-racism-protests-with-children/?utm_source=media&utm_medium=vanity&utm_campaign=2020_jac&utm_content=racism)

You can also read books with your kids that feature characters of color, that are listed on Common Sense Media, here:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/books-with-characters-of-color