Your children are paying attention. Our children’s worlds have been changed forever and a scar is being formed on their psyche that will resonate throughout their entire life. Depending on your children’s ages, they know something scary is happening and we as their parents have to acknowledge their feelings. It’s heartbreaking. Parents want their children to have normalcy and to thrive in the world but we cannot do this when the world is on fire right in front of us. Black parents can’t raise children in a normal environment when their very life is at stake because of racism and hate. We are in a social justice war and we are witnessing a revolution.
I struggled to put this article together for our parents because like you, I’m shell shocked again, I’m angry, and I’m hurt. I’m scared. I’m scared for my children and my grandchildren because nothing is changing. America is not evolving. Once again, our civil rights are being trampled on. How can we help our children not feel this pain, when we are hurting as their parents and as a community? We don’t have a chance to heal before the violence on Black bodies happens again. As role models, we have to address our stress and find positive outlets to release it and teach our children to do the same. Our children need us to be calm more than ever now yet for our older children, they need to know the protests and the riots are serious, create change, and must learn how these demonstrations have created change throughout our history.
UNDER AGE 2
Young children are aware of the stress from the trauma of seeing their parents react to unarmed Black bodies being abused and murdered. But the youngest of our children need to know the least about the violence that is going on in the world.
- Hug your child and turn off the television and videos when in their presence.
- Don’t have conversations about the violence in front of young children.
- Build their confidence in the color of their skin and their culture because racism is a them-problem, not an us-problem. Our children have to be confident in the skin they’re in from an early age. Read them books like, “Chocolate Me,” by Taye Diggs, “Skin Like Mine,” Latashia M. Perry, and “I Am Enough,” by Grace Byers.
From ages five to nine, children can rationalize. Fears can manifest into behavior problems and nightmares. This is the age that you begin talking to your children about world events and acknowledging their feelings. They have real feelings about what is happening around them.
- Monitor and limit what they see online and on television.
- Don Lemon said, “America is broken right now.” This is the perfect way to explain what they are seeing and hearing about online and on television.
- Lemon went on to say, “He chooses to see the glass as half-full.” This is a perfect analogy to help your child feel safe.
- Explain that there are a lot of people angry about how unfair Black people are being treated and hurt and this made people very upset because no one will listen to Black people to make life better. What you are seeing on television and online is people hoping to get attention to create change.
- Let them know that protesters are groups of people trying to make positive change but there are some bad guys who got into the group to cause trouble and to make them look bad. Explain that the news will show more of the bad things than the good things that people are doing like cleaning up the aftermath of the protests.
- Don’t sugarcoat what is going on.
- Encourage children to share their feelings. Find out what they already know. Have them draw on paper their thoughts.
- Acknowledge what your child is feeling in a nurturing and loving way.
- Maintain a sense of normalcy. Keep your regular routines and schedules each day.
- Give them extra support and cuddles at bedtime, especially if the situation is bothering them.
- Find and put your focus on those doing good.
- Ask your child if they have any questions.
- It is okay to say that you don’t know the answer.
A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.
A violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.
Steal goods from (a place), typically during a war or riot.
(Source: Oxford Language)
“A child not embraced by the village will burn it down,” – African Proverb
Older children might have fears of death, including them dying or a family member being killed in riots, or killed by racists or police. As parents, we have to keep a close-eye on this age group and make sure that they don’t fall into a state of depression or have a sense of hopelessness. It is our job to keep their hope strong.
- Use some of the talking points above, like finding out what they already know but then ask them how do they feel about it.
- Explain the difference between protests, riots, and looting.
- Explain what they are seeing at the riots is anger, frustration, hurt, and pain manifesting as the riot. Tell them that, in order to fix something, the police and America have to first acknowledge that it is broken. People are upset that nothing is being done about racists and police violence.
- Explain the real reason why people riot and that it worked in the past to create change. It was the Birmingham riot of 1963 in Alabama that was the catalyst of the Civil Rights Act. That riot got the attention of the world and President John F. Kennedy who finally met with Martin Luther King, Jr. to bring peace and the eventually sign the Act as a Bill. After Kennedy’s death, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Bill into law.
- Give them hope that change is coming. Ask them what they would do to create change and then make it into a project for them to report on.
- Let them know that they can come to you at anytime they are concerned or want to talk about what is going on in the world.
“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
At the end of each day, make sure your children feel safe. Give them lots of love and a normal routine. Children need routines to feel safe. They need to know what is coming next. An article on Fatherly reads, “Prior studies have also suggested that normalcy is key in a war zone—and that kids turn out best when parents do what they’d normally do.” They also go on to state, “They also found that maternal warmth was key. ‘The parenting style of mothers was the main factor determining children’s response to the trauma of war and terrorism,” [Michelle] Slone and [Anat] Shoshani said. “The authoritative parenting style…and high maternal warmth were the two central ingredients producing low levels of mental health problems among the exposed children.’”
Go and hug your babies of all ages tightly. Do that right now and remind them that you will always protect them.
Janice Robinson-Celeste started her journey with a degree in education. She became the early childhood specialist and parent educator for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and for the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center. This is where she began her formal career of public speaking. Robinson-Celeste was with African American Women on Tour and has traveled nationally speaking to parents and professionals at various expos and includes Disney as a client. She has been a director of NAEYC accredited childcare centers and a multimedia news journalist covering the education beat. Later, she founded Successful Black Parenting magazine, obtained her M.B.A., and won awards from Allstate as a Woman of Triumph, alongside Patty LaBelle. She was a journalism professor for Hofstra University in New York, taught multimedia to teens at several high schools, and is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post. In addition, she won a Sarah Award for her work from Women in Communications, the Benjamin Franklin Technology Award, and an Apex Award for her multimedia talent. She is a best-selling author of several parenting and children’s books. Robinson-Celeste once held the title of Mrs. NJ United States (2015) and is currently the executive producer of Ethnic Animations, as well as the publisher of Successful Black Parenting.