It is sometimes difficult to find the words to speak to those around us about events related to police violence or racism, and to explain them to children seems even less easy.
Experts in child psychology, however, recommend raising these subjects from childhood. Howard Stevenson, professor of urban education, even says that “the sooner the better to have this kind of conversation”.
Do not panic: the young are often more mature than you think. It is nevertheless important to think carefully in advance about the form these discussions will take and the level of detail that you will want to add to them, depending on the age and personality of the children. A calm tone and a reassuring air are ideal for having the conversation.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies can notice ethno-racial differences from the age of 6 months and can begin to internalize racist biases between 2 and 4 years of age. From the age of 12, beliefs are deeply embedded in their minds. The time to act is therefore quite short.
It is not a question of embarking on a pessimistic and violent tirade in front of your offspring, but of gently presenting the reality of a world which is not always just. You can give your children keys to respond to racial slurs or take action if they witness discrimination, advises Professor Stevenson.
Children sometimes ask questions that are difficult to answer: it does not matter. Responses such as “It’s a good question, I don’t know, let’s go find it together” give you some time to think while giving your child the feeling of being listened to.
The main thing is to start an open conversation and insist that no question is stupid. “There is no taboo subject” said Reena Patel, a psychologist specializing in education.
Lead by example
Children pay special attention to the behavior of those around them, make sure you instill the right attitudes in them.
Militant engagement is essential in some homes, and it may be interesting to include the little ones in the process. Reena Patel invites parents to question their children about what they are feeling, in order to make them aware of the defended cause.
Psychologist suggests that “Ask them, ‘Have you ever felt that you had to express yourself when something was wrong or was not right?’’
But setting an example also means educating yourself — reading books, listening to accounts of experience, wondering about your privileges. “The silence speaks volumes for the children,” says Reena Patel. It is important to establish a dialogue. ”
Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.
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