Kristin J. Carothers, PhD
Even if kids have difficulty with emotions or processing information, parents must engage in discussion. Give children information in a way they can hear it. Check the response to make sure you’re not giving too much.
Acknowledge that the country is going through a traumatic time. Certain communities have been impacted by COVID-19 more than other communities and treated unfairly by police and other systems. This is real. It’s not a perception.
For preschool kids you can say, “There are lots of people who are very hurt because they haven’t been treated kindly. They are trying to tell people that in a way that’s calm, but they haven’t been listened to.”
With school-age kids, take your cue from them. Answer their questions, and if you don’t have the information, tell them you will find the answer. Parents need to be aware of their own emotions and deal with their own bias or emotions.
Middle-schoolers and high-schoolers get much of their information through social media. Ask what they’ve seen and heard. Let them lead the conversation, and listen to what they say. But supplement what they’re hearing. You can do this work as a family. Watch PBS’s Eyes on the Prize together. Read NPR or the newspaper.
Give kids a way to express what they’re hearing and feeling—through writing, art, or any other way they feel comfortable doing it. As a family, support a cause like Blackout Tuesday. Explain that it’s another way to make our voices heard.
You don’t have to have all the answers, but don’t avoid the conversation. It’s OK to not be sure and to share how you’re feeling, too.
Kristin Carothers, PhD, is a clinical child psychologist.