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Conversations that change the world -- race, equality, humanity

Today, the scene in many living areas across the world often includes a television set – one commonly tuned into the local or national news station. As parents attentively watch and listen for the latest developments in what has now become a global movement, their kids are also soaking in the news. It is at these times that parents must realize the impact protesting, racism, and rioting is having on all children while seizing opportunities to listen and educate.

While it is not uncommon for parents to want to shield their children from negative topics and

to protect their innocence, now is not the time to show such restraint. Beginning with open and honest dialogue sets the tone for a positive exchange of information and ideas. The following tips can help start parents down the right track:

Listen, educate, and welcome new ideas

Parents are accustomed to fulfilling needs and providing answers, but depending on your child’s age, they may already have formed thoughts and opinions based on what they have seen and heard. Before handing out advice and directives, solicit your child’s opinion first. Gain insight into how they are processing the images and information they are receiving and find out how they feel. Their responses will help you determine if you need to impart new knowledge or correct misinformation – or a little of both. Share facts and discuss the implications. Involving them in the conversation invites fresh and innovative ideas. Allow them to be part of the solution.

Uplift your Black child

If you are the parent of a Black child, it is imperative to truly understand how they feel right now. Black children need to be uplifted. They need to know they are smart, beautiful, strong, and important. They need to understand they have done nothing wrong and that being Black is nothing to be ashamed of – that they must be proud of their heritage and color of their skin. Black children are particularly vulnerable right now, so it is up to parents and other adults to make them feel loved and important.

Emphasize equality, love, and humanity to all children

Racism is a learned behavior. Children must be taught at home that all people are equal. The love needed to combat racism must start in the household. Children must be taught that we all breathe the same air and bleed the same blood. They must learn we are stronger as a people when we come together, learn from each other, and love one another.

Buy your child a journal

Writing is one of the most effective means for sorting out feelings and emotions. Encourage your child to spend time each day writing about their thoughts and emotions. Children need clarity, too.

Model loving behaviors

It is not enough to talk about racism and injustice. Children are constantly watching, and they model their parents’ behaviors. Do not tell your kids everyone is equal and deserving of love regardless of skin tone one day then use a racial slur or engage in an off-color joke with a

friend or family member the next. When you do that 1) your kid will see you as a hypocrite;

no one calls out hypocrisy like a child, and 2) you send a mixed message. Your children constantly watch, imitate, and emulate your behaviors and actions. Make sure you’re not just giving them a show.

Keep it going

One day the protesting and rioting will end. The news stations will move on to another story. Yet, the realities of racism unfortunately will still exist. Do not let the conversations end. Continue having discussions with your children. Listen to their concerns and encourage action and involvement.

While some may conceptualize race and conversations about it as difficult, perhaps a simplified approach hinges on adjusting one’s mindset to view race with the same level of importance and sincerity as other values and priorities in your life. For example, we talk to our kids about bullying in general. We tell them to take a stand even if it doesn’t directly involve them – to refrain from just sitting back and watching an innocent kid get bullied. Parents can take the same position with matters of race. Encourage your child to take a stand if they witness a situation where a peer who does not look like them is being mistreated because of the color of their skin. Furthermore, we commonly approach the new year with fresh outlooks – even selecting a word to guide us through the year. Words like “intention” and “purpose” flood our social media feeds as we talk about being more intentional and purposeful in our businesses, marriages, and even our diets. Perhaps if parents approached race with the same focus, passion, and commitment, our children and the world in which we live, just might have a fighting chance for a better future.

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