It is critically important that we talk to our children about racism, the death of George Floyd and the continued violence and protests that have spread across the country. The stress of the coronavirus crisis has already brought a feeling of hopelessness to American life — particularly for adolescents. This latest example of racial violence and division has not surprisingly resulted in aggression on our streets and in our national conversation.

We must engage, comfort and reassure our young people and offer them productive ways to channel their anger and frustration and most of all be heard. How do we begin?

  • Don’t avoid talking about it. Racism and violence are things parents are reluctant to address, wanting to protect children from being frightened or upset. But children can come to harmful conclusions about race when it’s not discussed openly.
  • Try to be calm and factual. Children take their cues from parents, so talking to them calmly helps them process information. You don’t have to be a robot! It is appropriate to have emotional reactions, but try not to let them overwhelm the conversation.
  • Validate their feelings. Do your best to acknowledge whatever fears, anger or other negative feelings come up for them. This will look different for every child. Your child might be afraid of riots or they might be afraid of being hurt by the police themselves.
  • Encourage questions — and don’t worry if you can’t answer them.

The one key takeaway is to have a conversation with your kids now, whatever that looks like in your family. And keep talking about it.

Watch Child Mind Institute psychologists Jamie Howard and Kenya Hameed host an open and honest discussion and Q&A on Facebook Live.