Ray is 6 years old and Ry is 2 years old and over the past few months, we have had tough conversations. First, was the conversation about Covid and how it would change everyday things like going to the park, going to school and remaining a distance from others.
Then, things about police brutality came back into the news with Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The adults in the house were having a lot of conversations about this and Ray was curious about what was going on.
I knew the conversation I needed to have with Ray and Ry. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t preach hate, stick to the facts and be prepared for tough questions. I didn’t want my children to be afraid of law enforcement. I wanted them to be aware that people will hate and judge because of the color of their skin.
Now, I have to add that my 6-year-old has already experienced racism. Ray and his Nana went to a store and they accused him of stealing even though Nana had paid for the things in his hands. He was a little younger and I’m sure that he didn’t understand. My son has thankfully been in very diverse schools where he has mingled with every race, religion and background and he truly has love for all. I didn’t want to taint his view of others just because of these incidents.
It was important that I didn’t teach my children to be fearful of a certain race or law enforcement. There’s good and bad in everything and everyone. I told my sons why people are protesting and we have been looking at the live feeds of protests from around the world. Ray loves tuning in and hearing the speakers and chanting and he asks me questions about things being said.
Now, my 2 year old has never been to school and has had limited interactions with people. I’ve been told at this age they are aware of race so we had a little conversation about race and how he could be viewed differently. My 2 year old is not vocal so I’m not sure if he understood the conversation at all. He has watched the live streams of the protests and it seems to capture his attention.
I try not to have the news on all day so I don’t overwhelm the children with information. This conversation did make my 6-year-old a little emotional and he couldn’t believe someone could be so cruel but I explained to him that we can’t control others and that we can only control ourselves. I explained to him that it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings, be aware of who you are and to be proud of who you are.
My son learned a lot about Black History and civil rights this past school year and was able to tie everything together. Ray always likes to remind us that he has his civil rights any chance that he gets. I told him that people are marching like Martin Luther King Jr did and making sure their voices are heard. Ray has been to the King Center in Atlanta and watched some of the protests from the 60s and even saw photos and videos of people being violently arrested for protesting. Because he knows this information, he’s very aware of what’s happening now in the world and understand why people are protesting.
What helped my conversation the most was the Town Hall that CNN did that provided further insight into racism and the things that are currently happening in the world. It features some of our favorite Sesame St characters and it had my children glued to the screen.
After having the conversation and watching the Town Hall, I think my kids have a greater understanding of race and what’s happening in the world. I talked to them about the changes we are trying to accomplish so they can have a brighter future. We even attended a protest and rally in our neighborhood. Ray and Ry were able to make signs and stand amongst those that wanted a change and are fighting for justice. I think it was a neat experience for them to see a protest in person since they have been watching them on the television.
Another thing, we did recently was vote. I taught my kids that another way we could make our voices heard was by voting and that it was important that we picked the right people that could voice our concerns and create laws that will make change in our country. Ry was asleep in the car but Ray was able to stand beside me and see the entire process.
My advice to all parents is to be aware of your child’s mental state before having this conversation. Our kids are going through such a tough time right now and it’s important to be gentle. Practice teaching facts over fear. Be prepared for tough questions. Utilize other resources to help have this conversation with your children. Remember that your children are human and they have big emotions.
This is not an easy conversation to have but I think it’s important to have it. I’m glad my kids are more aware of what’s happening and that they are not fearful of going outside.