The uprisings set in motion by George Floyd’s death in May left many families having conversations about race, racism, and violence. For kids, prior experience of police violence differs vastly between homes, school, and communities. Some kids will experience learning about police in school, and some kids learn about police at home and in their own lives.
Teaching all kids about police violence requires an understanding of structural racism. Just like a bicycle “system,” we recognize that there are parts that make a bike move. In a system embedded in racism, there are many parts in our culture that work together but sometimes they are harder to see. Pulling apart the system can help kids understand the ways that beliefs, policies, and practices further injustices.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of opportunities to teach children about racism. Having anti-racism talks is just like talks about sex, money, religion, etc. — adults can be open and honest about race and social injustices. Begin in simple terms, and topics can become more complex to include power and privilege as kids mature. Be proactive. If your child experiences injustices first-hand, talk with your child about ways to cope. For parents of color, kids may also need coping skills for dealing with the racism and discrimination they encounter.
Racism is not a problem that will go away if it is ignored. Also, and as always, seek a therapist for support in addressing these distressing events.
Sara Allen, LPC, NCC