Talking with Children about Terrorism and Raising Antiracist Humans

My mind is still on the events of Wednesday. Scrolling through Instagram this morning, I found a really excellent post with a little more language you can offer to children:

“You may have noticed that I’m quieter today. I’m feeling sad about things that happened that I saw on the news.”

“I want you to know that if you hear conversations that are confusing or if I seem upset, it has nothing to do with you. You are safe. You have done nothing wrong.

“Some people broke into a place where they should have been and they scared a lot of other people. They were very angry about things. Even if people are angry, this isn’t the way they should behave.”

More succinctly, I love this advice: When things feel tough and you don’t know what to say to your child, remember this:

  • They need a story
  • Ask about their feelings
  • Explain and tell them yours
  • Remind them they are safe
  • Remind them they did nothing wrong
  • Say “I love you.”

Information, Feelings, Safety, Assurances, Love

These are the things children need no matter what hard things are happening…on the news, in your family, something you’ve seen or heard at the park…It may seem like you are doing children a favor by not talking about hard and scary things, and it certainly may feel easier to try to sweep things under the rug. As Mr. Rogers says, talking about feelings requires strength:

“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness. It takes strength to acknowledge our anger, and sometimes more strength yet to curb the aggressive urges anger may bring and to channel them into nonviolent outlets. It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”

And beyond that, your silence in the face of tough times is scarier to children than simply facing and talking about them. Silence says “this is not something to talk about.”

Speaking of silence, there is a topic so many of us are reticent to talk about, and yet so relevant to what’s going on right now, that I want to encourage you to bring into your conversations with your children. Racism. White Privilege.

I talked about it a few months ago, when BLM protests were filling the streets…letting you all know that it is never too early to start talking about race and racism, children are soaking in those messages from you from the very beginning…how you act, what you say, and what you don’t say. As early as 6 months, impressions are being formed. The only way we can bring up antiracist children is by starting the conversations early…with them and with ourselves. The Colors of Us, Antiracist Baby, and scores of other books like them are an excellent place to start.

I’m still finding my own voice, reading and listening to those who have thought more deeply, been through more. RIE is about raising respectful human beings…what is more respectful than humans who recognize the worth and value of one another, who realize there is always more to learn and space to grow?