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Talking to Kids About Charlottesville

August 17, 2017

From the Child Mind Institute

After the deadly violence in the streets of Charlottesville, our  children need help understanding what these distressing events mean for our country.

They need the adults in their lives to step up and comfort them, but also to be honest with them. Our children look to us not only to keep them safe but to help them think about upsetting information, including injustice and hatred, violence and division. Even when the actions and opinions of others run counter to our values, kids need us to be clear about what we believe in.

Many people have published helpful guidelines for talking to children about these very American issues of race, racism, equality and responsibility. We offer just a few:

  • Acknowledge injustice in our society. Children know when adults are hiding things from them, and it makes them feel unsafe.
  • Talk about the power of positive action. It helps children to know that adults are working together to make our communities and our country more fair.
  • Communicate hope to children. Feeling powerless or passive in the face of bad things makes them more painful.
  • Focus on togetherness and our common welfare. We need to stress that if some Americans are vulnerable, none of us should be comfortable.
  • Affirm the value of peaceful dissent. Passionate differences of opinion are the lifeblood of this country, but disagreements are never an excuse for violence.

The best gift we can give our children, and the best way to make them feel safe, is to let them hear and see our efforts to work towards change. In moments when hope eludes us, let us remember the power of constructive action and of investing in our children — all our children, not just yours or mine.

If we nurture and protect their childhoods, if we spare them from our prejudices and we teach them that the America we love prizes “the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” our children have a chance to be better than we are.

Even when events threaten to undermine our hopes for progress, we need to hold on to this fact.

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