Rachel Dubrow, LCSW
Talking to your teen about racism and racial injustice
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day across the country. Your kids are off of school. You may even have the day off of work. You may be inclined to treat this day as you would any other day off. However, we encourage you to have some sort of conversation as a family about racism and racial injustice.
Talking about racism and racial injustice has become a hot topic in 2020 and we expect it to continue throughout the years to come. Here are some tips for bringing up this type of conversation for your kids - in particular, your tween and teen.
Talk about the reason why there is a day off of school. It can be something as simple as saying "Don't forget that today is a day off of school. It's Martin Luther King, Jr. day, which is a great reminder of how far we've come in dealing with racism in our country. And there's still so much more to do, so if you ever want to talk about it, I'm here".
Plan to weave in some sort of activity, TV show, movie, podcast, etc. that deals with racism and racial injustice. Ideas include: Black-ish (TV Show), Hidden Figures (Movie), Hoop Dreams (Movie, great for if your tween/teen is into basketball), Selma (Movie), Code Switch (Podcast), Still Processing (Podcast), and Pod Save the People (Podcast).
Be open to talking about anything that your tween or teen brings up. As rare as this may be, tweens and teens DO go to their parents to talk about whatever's on their mind from time to time. If you make yourself available by going for a car ride, walk, or just spending one-on-one time together, you might be invited into that conversation without having to bring it up yourself.
Know that your tween/teen is likely to address how they feel about racism and racial injustice through social media. It's easier to express certain ideas when you have time to think through and write them out, so your tween or teen may be more likely to express their thoughts in this way. They also may be more likely to do something called "cancelling", which is when they do a mass unfollowing of certain people or things.
Support your tween/teen in their efforts to bridge the gap and create or maintain ties with certain people or causes. Ask questions, be open to conversations, and be willing to hear them out when they talk about things that might seem out of the ordinary. The more support your tween/teen feels from you in regards to the issue they care about (provided they're safe), the more likely they are to want to act on it - and involve you in it, too.
Whatever you decide to do, remember this: no matter how accepting of us, their parent, they are, they are still watching how you handle conversations and situations that are both comfortable and uncomfortable. Try your best to meet them with empathy, as they will be more likely to approach similar situations with that same perspective.
If you want to discuss specific strategy or are just needing someone to help you process issues related to racism and racial injustice, we are here to help. Contact us to discuss how we can support you or help your teen.