- Autumn Quiles, LCSW
Racism and Protests
I thought writing a blog about George Floyd and racism and protests and our children would be easy. There is so much to say. So many words.
I could write about teaching our kids about racism. Teaching our kids about protests. There are hundreds of tips-and-tricks, things To Do and Don't Do, so many Important Points that, as a therapist for kids, I could convey.
Yet, they all seemed inadequate.
And I realized, that raising our children- teaching our children- is more about the relationship we have with ourselves, and with them. And, relationships don't fit into neat, little To-Do checklists.
When parents have come to me for guidance about how to say the Hard Things that Must Be Said, I always reassure them that their relationship with the child means more than the words they say. Words are just that... words.
But the feeling... the intention... the meaning behind the words is what inspires feelings in children. These feelings gently give a child the love and hope and, in the case of what is happening recently, the grave sense of injustice that will hopefully inspire them to Be Better and Do More.
So... given that our words are inadequate for what is happening, I'll suggest these feelings:
1) Safety. If you can- and I realize that some families cannot- try to give your child a sense of safety. Don't bombard them with images or facts they cannot control or understand. If they can understand, and are soaking in, the images and facts, remind them that there are things they can do to stay safe. For families of color, this means updating "the talk". For white families, this means being safe from the physical threats (violent protesters) and emotional threats (others who are angry about what is happening).
2) Injustice. If you can- and I realize some families cannot- help your children to feel the injustice of what is happening. Life is not fair. But, for some folks, life is not fair over and over and over again. When the unfairness stacks up against us, it can be traumatizing. Understanding that people are very upset about unfairness piling up is a concept that makes good sense to kids. And it will help them to clarify, and define, who they Want To Be, in response to injustice.
3) Hope. If you can- and this, I know, we all can do- give your children hope. Inspire them by sharing what you are doing to address the injustice. Inspire them to fight injustice in their own, developmentally-appropriate, way. Remember that knowledge is power. Injustice is less likely to thrive under the light of transparency and education. Read books. Watch movies. Write letters of encouragement. Set your hearts on a new path. Help your children believe that, if we come together, we can change what will happen. If they continue to carry the torch that we, as adults, light and pass to them, then justice will be served.
For all the families- moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters- who are fighting injustice... whether by kneeling in the streets, giving money to the cause, or by educating our children to continue this fight until it is won... I see you.