Answering the Difficult Questions: How to Support and Guide Your Child Through Racial Trauma
As parents, it is our job to protect our children from harm and equip them with the tools needed to grow into healthy, successful adults. Unfortunately, racism often forces us to confront difficult questions and uncomfortable truths about our world – a reality that can feel overwhelming for kids. The key is learning how to provide emotional support and guidance so your child can navigate through these traumas in a safe and healthy way. This blog post will explore concrete strategies for helping your child process the ugly reality of racism. Raising a child isn’t easy, but for Black parents, this task can be even more challenging as we navigate educating our children about racism and the ugly realities it brings. It’s not something on any parent’s to-do list. So when a moment arises where you have to explain to your beloved son or daughter why people may treat them differently because of the color of their skin – how do you respond? How do you provide positive guidance while also acknowledging what they are experiencing? In these times, it is important that we understand our role in having difficult conversations with our children centered around race and racism. Psychologist Dr. Jessica Jean Baptiste explains how to approach these much-needed conversations.
What to do if your child has encountered racism or discrimination.
It can be heart-wrenching for parents to hear that their child has encountered racism or discrimination. As much as we would like to protect our children from the harsh realities of the world, unfortunately, prejudice and bias do exist. As parents, it is our responsibility to support our children through these difficult situations. "Listen to your child and encourage questions. Speak from the heart and validate their experiences." Dr. Jean Baptiste encourages. As parents, it is our responsibility to support our children through these difficult situations. It is important to start by acknowledging their experiences and validating their feelings. Taking the time to listen and learn about the specific incident can help us understand how to best address it with our child. We can then provide guidance on how to respond to future incidents and empower our child to become an advocate for themselves and others.
"Reinforce confidence and self-love by discussing family values, sharing education about their heritage, offering daily positive affirmations" Dr. Jean-Baptiste highlights. By understanding where we come from, we gain a more profound sense of pride and belonging, which boosts our confidence and self-esteem. Additionally, offering daily positive affirmations helps to combat negative self-talk and the harmful effects of discrimination. With an informative and compassionate approach, we can empower our children to stand strong in the face of adversity, knowing that they are worthy of love and respect. Misconceptions and stereotypes about race and culture perpetuate discrimination, exacerbating the problem. It takes both humility and courage to begin to dismantle these harmful ideas and promote mutual understanding."Discuss and correct misconceptions that they are exposed to in school and social media with your child" Dr. Jean-Baptiste suggests. Educating our children on the history of race and racism can help them understand why people may have different experiences based on their skin color or cultural background.
Dr. Jean-Baptiste also points out that parents should keep the conversation going. "Encourage ongoing discussion about race relations in the United States. As your child gets older and have new experiences and encounters, these conversations will naturally evolve. Look for resources that are age-appropriate for your child. "You do not have to be an expert, it’s ok not to know everything. Read and research with your child." Dr. Jean-Baptiste acknowledges that it can be difficult to navigate these conversations, but reminds us that we are not alone in this journey. There are many resources available online, as well as books and articles written specifically for children and young adults on the topics of race relations, racism and discrimination.
What to do if child witnesses racism on the news or social media, or is even being bullied.
"Provide an open and supportive environment for your child to express themselves. Children sometimes need help understanding complex emotions. Help your child identify the feelings they might be experiencing through writing, drawing or a shared activity which uses tools like an Emotion Wheel to facilitate discussions about feelings." Dr. Jean-Baptiste recommends. It is also important to remind your child that they are not alone and that there are people in their community who care about them and want to help. Encourage discussions with family members, friends, teachers or other trusted adults can be beneficial. Finally, children need to know that it's ok to speak up and stand up for themselves and others. Depending on the severity of the incident, it may be necessary to involve school officials or other authorities. School officials and authorities can help create a safe environment in which your child can feel secure and respected.
Therapy for debilitating trauma
"Sometimes, even with the best efforts, you may find that your child exhibit challenges at school, home and with friends. You may also notice feelings of sadness, withdrawn, changes in sleep/nightmares, persistent worry, it may be beneficial to seek professional support. Talk with your child about the goal of therapy. Research culturally-informed therapists who specify in working with children." Dr. Jean-Baptiste encourages parents to remain involved in their child’s therapy, but to also give the therapist space to work with your child one-on-one. When discussing racism with your child, keep in mind that it is a complex and nuanced topic. It’s important to take the time to listen to your children and create an open dialogue so that we can better understand each other and work together towards building a more equitable society. With these conversations, we can equip our children with the tools they need to become confident and respectful citizens. Together, we can create a future where everyone is respected and valued for who they are.