How to Talk About Today’s Protests With Foster Children
How to talk about worldwide protests with children
George Floyd and how to talk to a child who needs answers
Nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd have dominated our cities and the world. Leaving many concerned parents struggling between explaining the harsh realities of racism against black people to their children and adolescents and shielding them from the realities of the violence their witnessing. With news and social media cycles flooded by videos of protestors being attacked with tear gas, individuals being abused in police custody, callouts, and stories about the unrest, the conversation is challenging for foster parents and adoptive families to address and difficult to avoid.
According to child psychologist Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, it's important, to begin by discussing the unfairness of racism against people of African American descent in our society and why it's important to work together to make it different. While giving a reason for the protests may be complex, parents may consider not talking about "the what," but focusing on "the why." She recommends that parents should share why they are upset about what has happened.
One may wonder, where racism originates. Research suggests that:
✔ Racial biases may arise in babies as young as six to nine months old
✔ Babies as young as six months are more inclined to learn from adults of their race rather than from other races
✔ Bias based on race emerges without experience with other-race individuals
With all this being said, what can parents use as teachable moments? When helping their older children process these horrifying protest videos, they are watching day and night.
✔ Being an activist in this generation has become crucial.
✔ When young people are allowed to advocate for themselves, they develop skills that are most often gained through experiential learning.
✔ Self-awareness and self-reflection are cultivated and developed.
✔ Becoming knowledgeable about the barriers that prohibit change.
✔ Building a network with those with the same passions and interests.
The question is: Is there a danger in staying silent?
Tatum said foster care and adoption parents who won't have that conversation are in danger of leaving their children with "confusion and anxieties they don't know how to process." Her feeling is that it is important for parents to model inclusivity and anti-racism to children in foster care or children that they have adopted if that is their goal.
We all know that children of all ages will ask questions. Hence, their questions need to be answered in an age-appropriate way that gives them a better understanding of what is going on around them.
In conclusion, when you're ready, the experts say, let the child's age and level of development guide you. However, be sure that you are in the right frame of mind, and can execute these conversation in the proper state of mind and tone of voice.
According to Chicago pediatrician Dr. Nia Heard-Garris , "A parent's first step is to take care of themselves, their mental health, their emotional health. Put their oxygen mask on first before they put the oxygen mask on their child." Once a parent is fully available to be a calm, rational voice, "then you can parse out what's important to pass onto your child so that you're not over-sharing information that may further traumatize them or make them feel insecure or unsafe," Heard-Garris said.
It is important to always practice paying attention to the needs and emotions of youth in foster care, but it is especially important during this time of unrest. It is important if you are working with children or fostering them, to communicate with your child or children about the issues that have become so prevalent in our society, as of late.
Source: University of Toronto
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum
Sandee LaMotte, CNN