How to talk to kids about racism, protests and injustice

It's OK not to have all the answers but it's important to have the conversation.

The purpose of this post is to help parents and guardians of all backgrounds teach and talk to their children about race. We recommend that these resources are accessed by an adult to read, absorb, and then discuss with your child(ren). If you would like assistance on tackling these important conversations, please reach out to us for help.

The Harvard School of Graduate Education provides these tips to create a reflective space and help youth navigate traumatic events:

Help youth process racialized or violent events

  • Acknowledge traumatic events or circumstances – Bring up news with youth the day after it breaks, even if details or consequences are still uncertain.

  • Process and name emotions together – Help youth identify their emotions through discussion circles or individual writing prompts. Describe your own emotions, whether its outrage, fear, numbness or uncertainty.

  • Ask youth what they know and what they need – Some youth may have a thorough grasp of what’s going on, but little idea of how it could impact them. Others may feel very affected, but lack a nuanced understanding of the details. Open up the discussion to figure out what students want to know, and let them ask questions.

Empower youth to take action

  • Remind each youth that he or she has a voice that matters – Youth of color may feel marginalized, not only by racism or stereotypes, but because they’re young. Communicate to them that they are not powerless, and that their beliefs are valid and significant.

  • Give youth opportunities to take action – Ask youth what they want to do to make their voices heard. Show younger students how to write letters to Congress, or encourage older students to figure out which person or organization they can call to advocate for justice.

  • Think local – Explore the issues that are deeply affecting your community, and discuss ways to create change close to home.

These additional resources might be helpful in having conversations with youth:

  • Because of its importance and urgency, the authors of Reaching Teens, 2nd Edition - Strength-Based, Trauma-Sensitive, Resilience-Building Communication Strategies Rooted in Positive Youth Development are providing for free their chapter on the traumatic impact of racism and discrimination on young people and how to talk about it. The chapter is written by the leading voices in pediatric and adolescent medicine on racism – all scholars and clinicians of color, and the full book is scheduled to be published June 15 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Boys & Girls Clubs of America contributed to several chapters. Access the chapter by clicking here.

  • Talking With Members about Tragic Events– This one-pager taken from the BGCA Be There Toolkit gives practical ideas about how adults can help kids process tragic events. It can be accessed by clicking here.

  • Back in April, CNN and Sesame Street launched a series of Town Halls to facilitate conversations with children about coping with the COVID pandemic. In light of the recent events, this Saturday's Town Hall will focus on race and racism. You can view the library of past Town Halls by clicking here. The 60-minute special "Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism. A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Families" will air on Saturday, June 6, at 10 a.m. ET. on CNN and can also be watched via the link above.

*We will continue to update this post as more resources become available. Again, if you need assistance discussing these events with your child(ren), please do not hesitate to reach out to us.


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