4 Tips for Talking to Kids and Teens About Racism and Social Unrest

Original Article from THE PARENT CUE

Dr. Chinwé Williams

Over the past few months, our world has changed in profound ways. The effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching and are now occurring in tandem with the quest for racial justice. The convergence of these events has made our jobs as parents even more challenging.

Parents are now grappling with questions related to racism, violence, and injustice. The parents I’m speaking to simply want to know: What do I say to my children about racism and the recent social unrest?

These conversations are rarely easy. I offer four tips to parents who want to engage the topic of racism with their children in a meaningful way.

Tip # 1: Find out what your child knows and how they feel about race.

As parents, we’re often faced with having to engage in tough conversations with our children at much earlier ages than we anticipate or desire. With regard to racism, we may be processing our own thoughts and feelings and it may be difficult to know exactly what to say to our children.

Depending on the age of your child, he or she will have some level of awareness about what’s currently going on in the world. Children are very perceptive. If the news has been bothering you, it’s likely bothering them too. So, initiate the conversation by inquiring about what they do know and how they feel.

Acknowledge whatever emotions arise. Emotions can manifest differently for every child depending on their age, temperament, and experiences. Your child might be afraid of the images of buildings on fire, or they might be afraid of you being hurt or being hurt themselves. Your teen may be confused about why racism is still a significant issue or may express the desire to join the protests in some way. Listen and validate their emotions, and be honest with them about your own.

Tip # 2: Be direct and honest about racism and racial justice. 

The age to talk to children about racism is now. Studies like these, and the studies mentioned in articles like these, suggest awareness of racial differences develop as early as infancy and that by the age of 4, many children are already assigning positive traits to people of their own ethnic group and negative traits to people who look differently from them. As parents, we’re our children’s earliest teachers and we can start early to shape the ways in which our children embrace those differences or we risk leaving it to chance. So, be proactive—discuss race in a positive way, using developmentally appropriate language.

When discussing racism and racial justice, use simple terms like fairness and equality. Be direct and unequivocal. One example is to state, “Some people mistreat others because of the color of their skin, and that’s not okay. That’s not what we as a family believe in. It’s not okay to treat people any differently based on what they look like.”  

For younger children, books can be an instrumental resource to encourage conversations about race. While books providing historical context are great, ensure that your child is also reading books that include multi-racial characters simply engaging in fun adventures that your child might also find interesting. Toys and films also offer an opportunity to introduce multi-racial characters into your child’s life. The objective is not to always make race a focal point, but to highlight children of all races in positive and affirming ways. Currently, my children love the animated show Motown Magic that features multi-racial characters who frequently break out into Motown era hit songs (a plus!).

For older children who may or may not have some exposure to the topic of racial justice, begin by asking about their concerns and what they’re experiencing. They’ll be making sense of it in their own way and, as parents, it’s important that we guide them. Do more listening and reflect back any emotion that he or she expresses. For youth at any age, be sure to leave the door open for future conversations.

Tip # 3:  Be okay with not knowing all the answers.

For many non-minority parents, these are new conversations. Anything new can provoke anxiety and potentially be messy. Prepare yourself for questions to which you might not have all of the answers—but have the conversation anyway. The truth is that there’s no “right” way, but we know that conversations with significant adults help children begin to make sense of the chaotic world around them. You will likely not know the answers, but the key is to encourage the questions. By doing so, you’re teaching your child that race and racism are topics that should be broached and discussed openly.

If needed, commit to doing some research in order to educate yourself and deepen your own cultural understandings. However, more importantly than seeking the answers is demonstrating that you have the patience and the desire to lean in, listen, and help your child develop and nurture the values of compassion and humanity.

Tip #4: Take advantage of the opportunity. 

Many children are expressing sadness, fear, and confusion about the tragic events, riots, and the social unrest our country is experiencing. The images on TV can be very frightening. When discussing violent behavior, be clear that violence is never the answer, and emphasize that the most effective way towards change is through peaceful measures. Highlight to your children the different hues, races, and backgrounds of the peaceful protesters all over the world. Like many of you, I’m encouraged by how multicultural and multi-generational the peaceful protests have been, and I’m awed that they’re being led by young people! It’s such a display of courage that has quickly led to laws being changed! Share with your child that change is possible through peaceful means and . . . through relationships.

Similar to our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, this season in our nation offers us the opportunity to pause, reflect, and demonstrate the love of God. As parents, this is the perfect time to live out our faith by modeling love for all of our neighbors. And remember, modeling anti-racist behaviors begins in relationships. Immerse your family in diverse environments. Beyond multi-cultural book characters, there’s nothing like experiencing genuine relationships with people whose skin color differs from our own.

In conclusion, my prayer is that as parents, our courage will continue to grow exponentially as we navigate these challenging—but necessary—conversations.

In-Person Middle School Schedule Tonight

Student Pavilion 6:00 to 7:30

Fusion Wednesday Nights

Student Pavilion  6:00pm to 7:30pm – Some Covid Thoughts

Bible study starts at 6pm with worship and talk time, followed by break-out sessions for real life discussion by grade and gender. 

  • Masks Are Required in the Student Pavilion (Gators are fine)
  • Holding off on FOOD for a while…

What is Fusion? 

Fusion offers a loving and accepting environment geared for middle school students grades 6-8. We have events, weekly meetings, and exist to Intentionally Engage middle school students by helping them make Jesus #1.

What happens on Fusion Wednesdays? We meet in the Student Pavilion

6:00pm Bible study begins.   We begin with student-led worship, move to talk time, and then break out into small groups for real life discussion.

7:30pm is dismissal time.

Can my Middle Schooler play on the playground? 

Parents, please let your Middle Schooler know that the playground is for CHILDREN and that they will be asked to leave the playground.  We have Gaga Ball and Basketball outside the Student Pavilion.

THE OAKWOOD STUDENT MINISTRY IS BACK ON CAMPUS STARTING THIS SUNDAY!!!

That’s Right! Sunday, Sept 13 is GO TIME for Middle School!

Middle School Ministry

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Click Here for the 8th Grade OakwoodMS Parent Email 

Here are a few FIRST TIMER TIPS for FUSION OAKWOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL:

  • WE MEET DURING THE 9:30am SERVICE If you come at 11:00am, we suggest that your student attends Main Service with the family. 
  • THE STUDENT PAVILION IS THAT GARAGE LOOKING PLACE AROUND BACK: That is where Middle School Students meet.  
  • WE ASK THAT YOUR CHILD WEAR A MASK The OSM is simply reflecting requirements for indoor meetings during COVID that we are asking during Oakwood Main Services.  Some day, Pastor Ray will not be wearing a mask… and we won’t be either (PRAY DEEPLY MY FRIENDS)
  • Students can Check themselves in.  We have a welcome team that helps check your student in.
  • We usually entice students with Shipley Donuts, but due to current Covid Restrictions, we are sadly delaying our man made manna at this time 😦
  • When we END, You Don’t Check Your Student Out.  When our time is over, around 10:30am, students are dismissed and find their parents ON THEIR OWN. (Fly young ducklings… FLY!!!)
  • Plan a MEETING PLACE after FUSION. Take a moment ahead of time and plan a place to meet up.  For example… “Meet us in the Mission Hall” or “We will probably be picking up little Johnny from the Children’s building, so meet us in the foyer” or “Meet us at the car, but don’t get hit by another church member’s car” or “Go ahead and just go home with another loving church family that will feed you and house you and take you to school” (maybe not the last one)
  • We have loving Adult Leaders. Every Adult Leader present is happy to help you and your student.  We are a team and LOVE YOUR KID TOO!
  • During the School Year we break out into Small Groups by Grade and Gender: These Small Groups are Relationally Oriented for group discussion that relates to the Talk Time with Pastor Brandon (Pastor B).
  • Small Groups usually happen in classrooms surrounding the Branch Service Location: Due to COVID Restrictions, we will be staying in and around the Student Pavilion
  • On A Normal, NON-COVID Sunday, we will begin to break out Small Groups ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE CHURCH BY THE BRANCH. This means that your kid will most likely NOT be IN THE PAVILION around 10:30am.  (In fact, High School Students will begin gathering for their Sunday Meeting time and your will be very confused.) …PLAN A MEETING PLACE
  • LASTLY WE LOVE YOU AND YOUR STUDENT: I know this transition is different and can seem overwhelming as a parent or as a new 6th grader.  With all the stress and Chaos or change, we want to help your student make Jesus #1 in their lives.  The truth is… I have seen great movements of God in our Student Ministry and I KNOW without a doubt that He has way more investment in the life or your child than even You or I do!

In Christ,

Pastor B

That Big Guy Smiling Behind the Mask