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Helping Your Child To Navigate A Racist World

April 29, 2018

April 29, 2018

If there was a thing such as CTSD, Current Traumatic Stress Disorder, then I’m experiencing it on a daily basis. Every week there is some attack on the Black community not giving me a chance to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Keeping up with the news each day and reading about the police shootings, the discrimination in restaurants, the segregation in schools, white nationalists marches, the hangings that are being mislabeled as suicides, and the projected stereotypes, in general, has me upset to say the least. It weighs heavily on my mind.

According to an article from the Huffington Post, “African American women who say racial discrimination is the cause of their mistreatment showed a greater average reactive surge in blood pressure.” You worry about your family and you try not to let your children see your concern but they are in tune with you. They know something is wrong. They may not know the details, and they should not but they hear things, and they worry as well.

I’m not a mental health professional, but I am an early childhood specialist and I can tell you this — shield your children from the racism that is happening in the world as much as you can. You can do this and still raise “woke” children.

“African American women who say racial discrimination is the cause of their mistreatment showed a greater average reactive surge in blood pressure.”

Young children have to be protected from racism as you would protect them from the violence in a horror movie. “A national survey found that children who experience racism appear to be at higher risk of anxiety and depression, and tend to have poorer health in general,” according to an article from

You may question, how do I protect my children and keep them aware at the same time? You do this by infusing their life with culture, giving them a strong sense of self, teaching them about how strong our people are, and by teaching them to be proud of every inch of who they are. Show them positive Black images in books, Black people who are accomplishing great things, take them to African-American museums and talk about what you saw, and then tell them why they are great too. You have to build up their positive sense of self because there will be plenty of people in this world who will try to tear them down. They cannot do that if you have built a strong foundation.

Photo Credit: Protestor Against Police Brutality

When your child is upset because he or she sees racial violence on television or hears about a racist incident in school, teach them to look for the helpers. I am a fan of Fred Rogers and he once said that his mother taught him that. And she was right, there are always good people who show up during any tragedy or event. Teach your child to be a helper who can make change happen as they grow. Let them know that collectively working together, we can change things. Children feel empowered when they can help. Let your child know that it’s okay to feel anger but not to be an angry person. Teach your child about the children who were instrumental in creating change during the Civil Rights era.

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers these questions that you can ask your child the next time he or she is upset by images they see in the media or when something that happened to them:  “What happened?” “Why do you think that happened?” “How did it make you feel?” and “What can we do to feel better?”

“A national survey found that children who experience racism appear to be at higher risk of anxiety and depression, and tend to have poorer health in general.”

Finally, let them know that you are there for them. If anyone tries to make your children feel less than or threatens them, then they should know to come directly to you with this information. If your child is a teen, inform him or her that if threatened, it is their one duty to make it home alive, even if that means temporarily keeping their mouth shut to injustice.  Let them know that you will deal with the injustice they have experienced once they get home safe. Teach them to memorize pertinent information such as what someone looks like, or things that identify a person such as a badge number, license plate or name. Teach them to take photos and video only when it is safe to do so.

Overall, racists are openly showing who they are. In a way, this is a good thing so that we know who they are. The bad part is that they are recruiting weak people to join their cause. Protect your children from the horrors of racism as much as you can. Stay strong.

Here are a few books to help children to navigate a stressful world:

Every Little Thing: Based on the Song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley

Book by Cedella Marley

A is for Activist

Book by Innosanto Nagara

Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside

Written by Kenneth Braswell

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March

Written by Cynthia Levinson, Scholastic

Black All Around

Written by Patricia Hubbell

Momma, Did You Hear the News?

Written by Sanya Whittaker Gragg

By Janice Robinson-Celeste, Founder and Publisher of Successful Black Parenting magazine.

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