To say there is a lot going on in our country (and world) right now is an understatement. So where do we start?
My son’s best friend asked him about Charlotteville yesterday and my son said he didn’t know about it. So, through this post, I am processing what I’ll say and how I’ll address it.
Firstly, as I’ve just learned, it’s important to say something. This is one of many important conversations you’ll have with your kids and this is your opportunity to provide accurate information to them and provide a safe place for your kids to come and talk about hard things and ask difficult questions.
While this particular post focuses on the racism in Charlottesville, VA, this can be a guide to helping kids and current events in general:
Start with questions
- Have you heard about what’s happened in Charlottesville, VA? (or more generically, have you heard about?)
- How does what you’ve heard and/or seen make you feel?
- Do you have any questions about what you’ve heard or seen?
Focus on the facts
- For younger kids: People have differences and those differences sometimes create conflict. In Charlottesville, there are groups of people who each really believe that they’re right and that the others are wrong, and they feel so strongly about this that some of them start to fight physically. Some people are treated unfairly because of these differences, like the color of their skin, or their religion. We strongly and unapologetically believe that everyone deserves kindness and respect. In Charlottesville, many people there were standing up for what is right.
- For middle school-aged kids: Explain that white nationalists marched on the campus of the University of Virginia in protest of the removal of a Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. Then, watch/read the news with them, then ask how they feel and what they think. Discuss who Robert E. Lee was, what the Confederacy was and why people were fighting about it. There are many visuals and terms to discuss: the confederate flag, nazi emblems, white supremacy, prejudice, racism, stereotypes, KKK, discrimination, activism.
Highlight hope for your kids and current events
- Reassure your child that he/she is safe.
- Talk about people who stand up for what they believe is right.
- Discuss ways we, together, can stand up for what is right:
- If you see someone being picked on at school, always tell an adult, and treat others with respect. Respect and protect others, never mistreat someone.
- Educate ourselves: a march, or a prayer of hope, or a family trip to a multicultural museum or picnic where they can share their experiences and learn about others. A recent Austin Moms Blog post has some great local ideas.
- Writing a letter to our congressperson
- Encourage acts of kindness, like attending a peaceful protest as a family, or baking treats and bringing them to a neighbor who might be feeling discouraged by the events.
Learn from what is happening
- As humans, each of us have different points of view. There are – and will be – many disagreements, but it’s important to talk about them and help try to find a solution. Violence is never the answer.
- Role play: What would you do if you strongly disagreed with someone in your class. Can you come up with a better way to work out disagreements rather than violence?
- Read books together. The New York Times recommends the following books (a mix of ages from 4 to high school): The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson; Come with me by Holly M. McGhee; The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren; Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper; March Trilogy by By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell;; Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; WE WILL NOT BE SILENT: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman
- Explain your family values and what they mean to you.
- Be love. All families have different backgrounds and have differing values, and our job is to be kind and respectful.
Additional resources and sources referenced in this post to help with kids and current events: