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‘Talk about what’s happening': Experts weigh in how to talk to your kids about racism

Posted at 8:18 PM, Jun 02, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — "I can’t breathe.”

“Black Lives Matter.”

“Don’t shoot.”

These are chants that have echoed across the nation since video of George Floyd, a black man, was seen telling a white police officer he couldn’t breathe as the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Floyd’s death has sparked nationwide protests.

“My biggest hope is that people are having conversations about what is happening,” said Karen Tao, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Utah.

It is important to talk to your kids about what is going on, Tao said.

“It is really important for white parents to talk to their children about what their role is within society. To be able to raise conciseness, raise empathy, to really instill a sense of what it means to be just and fair,” she said.

Parents should use this as a jumping off point to discuss race relations and how to treat children that may not look the same, Salt Lake Branch NAACP President Jeanetta Williams said.

“[Tell them] this is why this happened, there is not equality. There is discrimination going on, black and brown people aren’t being fairly. They aren’t treated the way everybody else is,” she said.

Ask your kids what they know about racism. It’s important to have an age appropriate discussion with your kids, but make sure you have one, Crisis and Diversion Services Clinical Staff Development Educator Amanda McNab said. Kids know what is going on.

“Remind them that while society is dealing with these different issues, they are still okay and they will be okay,” she said.

Your children need to know they are safe, Dr. Julia Hood echoed.

Hood, Chief Clinical Officer at Valley Behavioral Health, said to pay attention to how your kids are acting, to see how recent stresses are impacting their mental health.

“In children of all ages, looking at changes in behavior, eating patterns, sleeping patterns that could be indicating that the child is struggling with understanding of their emotions and feelings about what is going on,” she said.

It is important parents are sharing accurate, age appropriate information with their children and above all, listening to what they have to say, Hood said.

“I think one of the biggest missteps that we can make as adults is assuming that the child is perceiving things the way that we do,” she said.

While parents begin these conversations, take a minute to think about black families, Tao said.

“I’m thinking about how my conversations with my 10-year-old son are going to look very different from parents talking to their 10-year-old black son,” she said. “And they’ve been having these conversations for a really, really long time, way before any of these things have hit the media, and for them it’s a matter of life and death. And so recognizing even the fact that we don’t have to talk about it is in fact a privilege.”