Tag Archives: racial discrimination

“Shall We Dance?” How Parents Can Work Together to Teach Kids About Race

Family dancing together

 

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res

 

By Shawn C. T. Johnson, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)

 

giphy

 

In the world of reality contest shows, are any more fun than those that center around dancing? On shows such as Dancing with the Stars (above), individuals with varying levels of talent pair up with others—sometimes as novice, sometimes advanced—to practice and eventually perform a set routine.  If you have ever watched these shows, you can appreciate the time and effort it takes to get the count right, keep rhythm etc.

 

As a racial-ethnic socialization (RES) scholar, watching these shows has also gotten me to think about another dance that goes on (and is often unnoticed) for many parents: working together to teach their child how to navigate a racialized world. Unlike faulty steps meaning the difference between staying on a show and going home, the stakes for effectively providing your child with affection, protection, and correction, as Dr. Howard Stevenson describes it, are much higher. Yet, while we often consider racial socialization one of the most critical parenting practices, there is not much that exists to help parents think through how their individual and collective skills, what they bring to the dance, can have important consequences for safeguarding their children physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

So You Think You Can Dance?

 

Individually, it may be important for each parent to consider their styles and comfort around talking to their children about race. For example, one parent’s experiences with racial discrimination may make them more or less committed to preparing their children for potentially similar experiences. For another parent, they may still be carrying forward the messages that they were taught about race as a child, and these messages may inform how they plan to talk about race. Even experiences such as where parents’ grew up can impact how they think about race and the importance of teaching lessons to their children. So it is crucial to ask your co-parenting partner to share thoughts and feelings on race and RES.

 

It Takes Two…

 

giphy (1)

 

In addition to what each parent brings to the dance floor independently, how well parents work together impacts how successfully they can teach their children about race. Have you ever seen two capable dancers stumble through a routine? Oftentimes it has to do with a lack of communication. The most seamless routines are often found when communication is open and frequent. For RES, like dancing, this can mean using verbal or non-verbal means to let your partner know where you are going.

 

Another element of effectively navigating RES may center on discussions of role-taking or leads. Have you discussed who might be the one to teach your child what to do if they get stopped by the police, or is called a racial slur?

 

No Parking on The Dance Floor

 

source

 

Even once parents are able to work together to get into a groove that includes mutual understanding and open communication, it is important to also take a look at what is going on in you and your child’s world. Very skilled dancers may still find it difficult to be successful on a dance floor that is too crowded, and communication may become difficult if the music is too loud. Does the neighborhood or school your child inhabits make having these conversations more critical? How do the current political climate and exposure to social media change the ways in which your maneuver? How do other important people—grandparents, stepparents, and fictive kin— fit in with how we are teaching our children about race?

 

While RES unfortunately does not come with an instructional dance guide, and there may not be just the “right moves”, working together to teach your children about race is achievable. Share experiences and perspectives on race; support one another in co-creating an approach to talking about race; and accommodate one another when disagreements about how to proceed inevitably arise.

 

So tonight, perhaps after watching the latest episode of DWTS, you can pull up APA’s RESilience Parent Tip Tool, and ask your co-parent, “Can we have this dance?”

 

Biography:

 

Shawn C. T. Jones, PhD, is a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Currently, Shawn works with Dr. Howard Stevenson in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC), which centers on applied research to promote racial literacy and empower families as a means of reducing the deleterious impact of race-related stress. He received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a Child and Family emphasis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a Child Clinical Psychology Pre-doctoral intern at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. During his time at UNC, Shawn was both a Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Dissertation Fellow. Shawn also holds a Master of Health Science in Mental from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2010) and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University (2008).

Dr. Jones endeavors to impact the psychosocial wellbeing of Black youth and their families by: a) exploring mechanisms undergirding culturally-relevant protective and promotive factors; b) translating basic research into interventions that harness the unique strengths of the Black experience; and c) disseminating this research to be consumed, critiqued and enhanced by the communities the work intends to serve. Clinically, Dr. Jones is committed to the provision of culturally-informed child, couple and family therapy and assessment. Finally, Dr. Jones is passionate about eliminating racial health disparities, particularly those related to mental health services, which he sees as obtainable through stigma-reduction and mental health literacy interventions.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnic identity, parenting, parenting tips, racial and ethnic socialization, racial discrimination, racial identity, racial socialization, resilience

“But Daddy, Why Was He Shot?”: How to Talk to Children about Race Today

Facts of Life

This is the first in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res

 

By Riana Anderson, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)

 

Whenever there is news of a criminal’s non-indictment for violence committed against Black people, I run to Facebook to assess the pulse of my friends and colleagues. It’s a phenomenon that started the day after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin. My newsfeed was ablaze with the desperate, despondent, and disastrous beliefs of current and hopeful parents.

 

“It almost seems irresponsible now to have and raise a child of color in this country.”

“Deeply saddened. Disappointed. What is the message for my sons, cousins…don’t go outside?”

“…I love you and I am scared as you guys get older.”

 

All parents are concerned for their children’s safety, but parents of color shoulder a particularly challenging burden raising children in a racially charged society. In particular, the messages and behaviors that parents express to their children regarding race are known as Racial/Ethnic Socialization (RES). Much has been written on RES —formal review articles, blogs, more blogs, and even more blogs—but at a time when racial conflict is especially visible via social and mass media, caregivers may be wondering what is best to say to children of color.

 

Although no magic formula exists for helping children of color get through the racial dynamics of our society, here are a few things that research tells us are useful:

 

1. Talking is both said and unsaid

You may believe that you have said all the things you want to say to your child, especially the things the research indicates most parents of color say to their children—cultural socialization (or pride), preparation for bias, promotion of distrust, and equality—but have you also noticed what you are not saying to them? If the TV is on and you are full of emotion, do you explain to your child what it is that is making you so scared and frustrated? RES is not just the explicit sharing of messages, it is also implicit—what we don’t say is just as important as what we do say. This is true for actions too – what we do and don’t do both provide models for our children. Children are always watching (and parents thought they had eyes in the back of their head!), so be mindful of what they see and how you explain your actions.

 

2. You have to start somewhere

Sometimes, parents can be so paralyzed by our own frustrations or fears that it is challenging to talk to our children about race. Some parents may even feel like bringing up race can add to the anxiety that our children feel about racial experiences. On the contrary, the majority of research shows that there are some great benefits to instilling pride and preparing both children and adolescents of color for the bias they will face. Children of color often have better psychological, physiological, and academic outcomes when parents use some combination of pride and preparation. We think of it this way – if a flight attendant prepares passengers for plane crashes, wouldn’t it be just as logical for parents to prepare children for the sting of discriminatory experiences that the majority of Black people report facing throughout their lifetime?

 

3. Do you understand your own stress?

Just as my peers indicated in their Facebook posts several years ago, a very real fear may exist in communicating with our children about racial encounters. Oftentimes, parents have unresolved stress and trauma ourselves, so asking us to provide assistance for our children can be challenging. Prior to talking to your children, it may be useful to talk to your partner, parent, friend, or therapist about how you feel.

If we as parents are not attuned to our feelings on racial matters, we may be unconsciously communicating our discomfort to our children. Indeed, children who receive more frequent messages of distrust (which can be a generalization from a personal or communicated experience) and/or equality (which may just be avoidance of racial topics for some parents) have less consistent well-being outcomes relative to their peers who receive pride and preparatory messages. Although it is important to start somewhere with our children, we may have to start with ourselves first.

 

Since very young children can detect differences in race and start to make meaning of those differences, it is important for caregivers to be prepared to have open and honest dialogue about the history, present-day practices, and future hopes for race in our society.

 

To learn more about APA’s new initiative on racial and ethnic socialization (RES), please visit http://www.apa.org/pi/res and watch the video below:

 

Questions for you to consider:

  • What are my personal beliefs about racism and discrimination today?
  • How is my child being impacted by the racial climate around him/her?
  • In what ways am I addressing both my and my child’s concerns about race?
  • What resources would help me to feel comfortable and confident in addressing race issue with my child?

 

Don’t miss our Twitter chat!

Join the conversation! APA will cohost a Twitter chat (#kidstalkrace) on the benefits of parents having healthy conversations on race with kids on July 28, 2017 from 4 to 5 PM (ET): http://vite.io/kidstalkrace

Resilience _KidsTalkRace Flyer 2.png

 

Biography:

 

Riana Anderson, PhD, is a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Applied Psychology and Human Development Division (APHD). Her current fellowship is with Dr. Howard Stevenson in the Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC), which centers on cultural pride, coping and parenting, culturally specific parenting strategies, and other ways of reducing race-related stress. She received her doctorate in Clinical and Community Psychology at the University of Virginia and was a Clinical and Community Psychology Pre-doctoral Fellow at Yale University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Anderson graduated from the University of Michigan in 2006 with degrees in Psychology and Political Science. She then taught for 2 years with Teach For America in Atlanta, GA. She has also conducted community based participatory research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and neuropsychological research at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Anderson aims to assist at-risk youth with practical applications of her research and clinical services, as well as through academic instruction and policy recommendations. She strives to improve the psychological outcomes for African American youth through expanded coping strategies, discovery and encouragement of alternative outcomes, culturally and contextually relevant parenting programs, and community building, participation, and collaboration. One of her goals is to create youth centers and interventions that support the mental and physical health— as well as educational goals—of African American youth in urban communities.


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: children's mental health, ethnicity, parenting, parenting tips, race, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial identity, racism, resilience

Why Evidence-Based Community Policing Needs to be the Norm, Not an Exception

Police tape saying "police line do not cross"

By Susan H. McDaniel, PhD

Longstanding tensions between police and communities of color have reached a boiling point in the United States. The horrifying cellphone videos of two shooting deaths of African-American men by police officers this month, and the subsequent killing of five police officers by an African-American man in Dallas and three police in Baton Rouge, have reinforced a deadly cycle of fear, mistrust and violence. If we are to heal as nation, we must first acknowledge and move beyond entrenched societal stereotypes that reduce people of color, particularly black men, to suspected criminals who should be feared.

Equally important, communities must recognize the challenges facing police and the stress and dangers they encounter daily.

Social science research has shown that blacks are perceived as more violent and are more likely to be associated with objects such as guns. These associations are often so automatic that they may occur unconsciously, a phenomenon researchers have termed implicit bias.

In late June, the Department of Justice announced that it will train all its law enforcement agents and prosecutors to recognize and address implicit bias as part of its regular training curriculum. The new training, based on best practices in law enforcement, is to begin “in the next few weeks,” according to the announcement — which is none too soon. While this training already occurs in some police departments, it needs to spread to police departments everywhere.

A key factor shaping whether people obey the law is trust in legal authorities, according to research by psychologists. A number of studies have shown that the most important factors related to public trust of the police are whether people believe that the police are exercising their authority fairly. This means that police are not making decisions about whom to stop based upon race or ethnicity; that they are willing to listen when they stop people; that they apply the law consistently and without prejudice; and that they take time to explain the reasons for their actions. Most important, all police need to treat people in the community with respect and courtesy. Increasing trust helps the police as well, as distrust makes controlling crime more difficult by lowering the willingness of community members to help the police solve crimes or identify criminals.

Going forward, psychological research indicates that effective strategies to prevent events such as those that occurred in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and elsewhere include collaborative police-community partnerships; procedurally fair applications of the law; community outreach and education; recruitment strategies to ensure that the police department reflects the demographics of the community; and training to reduce police and community stereotyping.

These practices are embodied in community-oriented policing. This approach stresses law enforcement that embraces community outreach and emphasizes police and community partnerships and dialogue.

Beginning with selection and training for officers, and continuing through in-service, roll-call, and supervisor and management training, it is important to incorporate behavioral health concepts and information about coping methods, responding to stress, and support (e.g., family and friends) and resiliency within the police community. It is useful to have the psychologists who provide services to police departments involved in the trainings, so that they are familiar to the employees and knowledgeable about the workings of the agency. The more police are educated about psychology and behavioral issues, the more they are prepared to deal with these difficult encounters in a productive way.

One success story comes from the late Lorraine Greene, PhD, a police psychologist who served as the first manager of the Nashville police department’s behavioral health services division. With her involvement and the support of the department leaders, a variety of initiatives were launched to improve police-community relations. These included surveying community members and holding focus groups of police officers, local residents and researchers. The data collected were then used to create training for police and citizens, which led to greater mutual understanding. More recently, social psychologist Phillip A. Goff, PhD, and his colleagues at the Center for Policing Equity have worked to develop collaborative relationships with law enforcement, communities and political stakeholders, to identify ways to strengthen relationships between local law enforcement departments and the communities they serve.

Increasing the psychological training and emotional supports available to police officers,   improving morale and reducing burnout can lead to better policing and potentially reduce violent police-community encounters. As a society, we have the behavioral tools to help heal police-community relations. We now need to ensure that we apply them – fast.

 

Dr. McDaniel is president of the American Psychological Association.


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: Baton Rouge, community policing, Dallas, evidence-based, Falcon Heights, Louisiana, Minnesota, police bias, police shootings, policing, prejudice, racial discrimination, racial profiling, research

Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

blog-racial-trauma

By Erlanger A. Turner, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Houston-Downtown) & Jasmine Richardson

There have been many changes within the criminal justice system as a means to deter crime and to keep citizens safe. However, research demonstrates that often times men of color are treated harshly which leads to negative perceptions of police officers. The recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas have exposed many individuals and their families to incidents of police brutality that reminds us that as a society work needs to be done to improve police and community relations.

In light of these recent events, many people have witnessed these traumatic incidents through social media or participation in marches in their cities. The violence witnessed towards people of color from police continues to damage perceptions of law enforcement and further stereotype people of color negatively. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (Geller, Fagan, Tyler, & Link, 2014), the authors reported that 85% of the participants reported being stopped at least once in their lifetime and 78% had no history of criminal activity. What is more concerning is that the study also found that those who reported more intrusive police contact experienced increased trauma and anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, those who reported fair treatment during encounters with law enforcement had fewer symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

 

What is Racial Trauma?

In addition to the mental health symptoms of individuals who have encounters with law enforcement, those who witness these events directly or indirectly may also be impacted negatively. In an attempt to capture how racism and discrimination negatively impacts the physical and mental health of people of color, many scholars have coined the term “racial trauma” or race-based traumatic stress. Racial trauma may result from racial harassment, witnessing racial violence, or experiencing institutional racism (Bryant-Davis, & Ocampo, 2006; Comas-Díaz, 2016). The trauma may result in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, or irritability.

 

Effects of Racial Trauma on Communities of Color

Decades of research have noted the impact of discrimination and racism on the psychological health of communities of color (e.g., Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006; Carter & Forsyth, 2009; Comas-Díaz, 2016). Although not everyone who experiences racism and discrimination will develop symptoms of race-based trauma, repeated exposure may lead to the following. According to a report on The Impact of Racial Trauma on African Americans, Dr. Walter Smith notes the following effects of racial trauma:

Increased vigilance and suspicion – Suspicion of social institutions (schools, agencies, government), avoiding eye contact, only trusting persons within our social and family relationship networks

Increased sensitivity to threat – Defensive postures, avoiding new situations, heightened sensitivity to being disrespected and shamed, and avoid taking risks

Increased psychological and physiological symptoms – Unresolved traumas increase chronic stress and decrease immune system functioning, shift brains to limbic system dominance, increase risks for depression and anxiety disorders, and disrupt child development and quality of emotional attachment in family and social relationships

Increased alcohol and drug usage – Drugs and alcohol are initially useful (real and perceived) in managing the pain and danger of unresolved traumas but become their own disease processes when dependency occurs

Increased aggression – Street gangs, domestic violence, defiant behavior, and appearing tough and impenetrable are ways of coping with danger by attempting to control our physical and social environment

Narrowing sense of time – Persons living in a chronic state of danger do not develop a sense of future; do not have long-term goals, and frequently view dying as an expected outcome

 

Coping with Racial Trauma

Racial trauma or race-based trauma often goes unnoticed. These hidden wounds that adults and youth of color experience are worn like invisible weights. Hardy (2013) provides the following eight steps to heal after experiencing racial injustices in our community.

  1. Affirmation and Acknowledgement: This involves professionals helping the individual to develop a sense of understanding acceptance of racial issues. This step is important because it opens the door for us to dialogue about issues related to race.
  2. Create Space for Race: Creating space allows an open dialogue with our communities about race. Hardy notes that we must take a proactive role to identify race as a significant variable and talk openly about experiences related to race.
  3. Racial Storytelling: Gives individuals an outlet to share personal experiences and think critically about events in their lives. This provides an opportunity to hear others voice how they have been treated differently due to their race and it helps expose hidden wounds through storytelling.
  4. Validation: Can be seen as a personalized tool used to counter devaluation. This provides confirmation of the individuals’ worth and their redeemable qualities.
  5. The Process of Naming: With the scarcity of research on the effects of racial trauma on mental health, there is of course no name as of yet making it a nameless condition. This in turn increases the doubt and uncertainty. By naming these experiences we give individuals a voice to speak on them and also recognize how they impact them. If we apply a mental health condition, individuals may experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  6. Externalize Devaluation: The aim for this step is to have people focus on increasing respect and recognizing that racial events do not lower their self-worth.
  7. Counteract Devaluation: This step uses a combination of psychological, emotional, and behavioral resources to build self-esteem and counter racial attacks. This helps prevent future kiss if dignity and sense of self.
  8. Rechanneling Rage: By rechanneling rage, individuals can learn to gain control of their emotions and not let emotions consume them. This is an important step because it empowers people to keep pushing forward after adversity. This may include taking steps to engage in activism or self-care strategies such as spending time with family.

 

Biographies:

Erlanger A. Turner, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Turner’s research focuses on access to child mental health services, health inequity, help-seeking attitudes and behaviors, and cultural competency in clinical practice. He teaches courses at UHD in clinical psychology, multicultural psychology, and child psychopathology. Dr. Turner is also a blogger for The Race to Good Health. Dr. Turner is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association of Black Psychologists. He has served in numerous leadership positions throughout APA and APA Divisions. He earned his B.S. in psychology from Louisiana State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. Dr. Turner is currently Chair-Elect for the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest and he was recently appointment to the Behavioral Health National Project Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health.

Jasmine Richardson, BS earned her psychology degree from the University of Houston- Downtown (UHD) and is a former research assistant at the UHD Race, Culture, and Mental Health Research Lab under the supervision of Dr. Turner.

Note: An earlier version of this blog was published on BlackDoctor.org

 

References:

Bryant-Davis, T., & Ocampo, C. (2006). A therapeutic approach to the treatment of racist-incident-based trauma. Journal of Emotional Abuse6(4), 1-22.

Carter, R. T., & Forsyth, J. M. (2009). A guide to the forensic assessment of race-based traumatic stress reactions. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online37(1), 28-40.

Comas-Díaz, L. (2016). Racial trauma recovery: A race-informed therapeutic approach to racial wounds. In Alvarez, A.N. (Ed); Liang, C. T. H. (Ed); Neville, H. A. (Ed), The cost of racism for people of color: Contextualizing experiences of discrimination. Cultural, racial, and ethnic psychology book series (pp. 249-272). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Geller, A., Fagan, J., Tyler, T., & Link, B. G. (2014). Aggressive policing and the mental health of young urban men. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(12), 2321-2327

Hardy, K. V. (2013). Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma. Reclaiming Children And Youth, 22(1), 24-28.

Image source: Flickr user blogocram via Creative Commons


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: coping, discrimination, mental health, policing, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racial trauma, racism, stress, trauma

How to Talk to Our Kids about the Tragic Shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

Diverse kids holding hands

By Robin Gurwitch, PhD

Families around the country are coming together to talk about the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the ambush of police officers in Dallas, Texas. These events come shortly after the violence in Orlando. In fact, it seems that acts of violence are in the news on a regular basis.

As a nation, we are trying to wrap our minds around what is taking place all around us. Protests related to police injustice, protests about gun violence, protests about tolerance, vigils for those killed in all of these events are happening in many communities across America.

In the aftermath of these events, we are also witnessing many acts of kindness. These have included hugs between protesters and police officers, hand-holding among all genders, races, and ages. Offering lemonade to those standing in the heat.

How do we begin to explain all of this to our children when we, as adults, are having our own difficulties with what is occurring?

First, we need to ask: What do children understand or believe about what they are seeing and hearing from the media, social media, and family?

It is important to include our children in these important conversations. Check in to see children what they are thinking or feeling. This will shape the talks. Feelings may include worries and anxieties to fears about safety and security. There are similarities and there are differences in the talks across families. Families of color are having to talk to their children about how to act should they be stopped by police officers. Is it fair that these discussions must still happen in 2016? Absolutely not.  The fact that this is still necessary is an example of the injustices many face daily.

All families should talk about diversity, the reality of racism and discrimination, and the importance of respect, tolerance, unity and justice.

These events, as horrific as they are, are opportunities for families to come together to discuss how to treat others. It is time for a frank discussion about realities in our society and equitable treatment of all who live in our country. This is a time to share values and beliefs, a time to share our wishes for the future. Research shows us that hate and prejudice are not ingrained—they are taught, they are learned. This is a time to turn the tide and teach our children about the kind of society we want for their future.

While events before and since Ferguson have spotlighted systemic injustices, it is important to also recognize the good done by the majority of police officers on a daily basis in communities around the country. It is important to note for children that as shots rang out in Dallas, police protected protesters and ran toward the sound in hopes of keeping people safe. Police and other first responders can be a resource of help. Families’ experiences may vary widely, so discussions will also vary. While not shying away from the realities of current events, be mindful of the age of children as you talk with them. We are at a long-overdue “tipping point” for improving relationships and trust in our communities. We can and should all be a part of this change.

The protests about police injustice and the attacks on officers are not an “either-or” issue, but are two important, interrelated conversations.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents championed the importance of acts of kindness. We should discuss this with our children, too.

As children may be worried about safety and security issues, it is important to share with our children what communities are doing to keep everyone safe. It is also important to help children consider how they would like to show an act of kindness. This may be participating in a community event/vigil for healing. It may be writing a letter or creating a drawing for community first responders or other positive figures in the community; it may be helping a neighbor or a friend in some small way. Rather than tell our children how to act with kindness, let’s be role models by our own actions and words. Let’s include them in the conversation. Oftentimes the ideas of children, even the very young, and teens surprise and impress us! We all have heard the quote, “children are our future,” perhaps now, more than ever, we need to decide what kind of future this will be.

For more information and tips, check out the resources and articles below.

Related Resources:

 

Recent News Articles:

Biography:

Dr. Robin Gurwitch has been involved in understanding the impact of terrorism and disasters on children since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, providing direct service, training, and conducting research. She is a member of the APA Disaster Resource Network, American Red Cross, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Gurwitch was recently appointed to the HHS National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.

 

 

 


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: Children, children's mental health, Dallas, difficult dialogues, excessive force, Louisiana, mass shootings, Minnesota, police brutality, police shootings, policing, race relations, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, social justice, trauma, violence

How to Talk to Our Kids about the Tragic Shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

Diverse kids holding hands

By Robin Gurwitch, PhD

Families around the country are coming together to talk about the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the ambush of police officers in Dallas, Texas. These events come shortly after the violence in Orlando. In fact, it seems that acts of violence are in the news on a regular basis.

As a nation, we are trying to wrap our minds around what is taking place all around us. Protests related to police injustice, protests about gun violence, protests about tolerance, vigils for those killed in all of these events are happening in many communities across America.

In the aftermath of these events, we are also witnessing many acts of kindness. These have included hugs between protesters and police officers, hand-holding among all genders, races, and ages. Offering lemonade to those standing in the heat.

How do we begin to explain all of this to our children when we, as adults, are having our own difficulties with what is occurring?

First, we need to ask: What do children understand or believe about what they are seeing and hearing from the media, social media, and family?

It is important to include our children in these important conversations. Check in to see children what they are thinking or feeling. This will shape the talks. Feelings may include worries and anxieties to fears about safety and security. There are similarities and there are differences in the talks across families. Families of color are having to talk to their children about how to act should they be stopped by police officers. Is it fair that these discussions must still happen in 2016? Absolutely not.  The fact that this is still necessary is an example of the injustices many face daily.

All families should talk about diversity, the reality of racism and discrimination, and the importance of respect, tolerance, unity and justice.

These events, as horrific as they are, are opportunities for families to come together to discuss how to treat others. It is time for a frank discussion about realities in our society and equitable treatment of all who live in our country. This is a time to share values and beliefs, a time to share our wishes for the future. Research shows us that hate and prejudice are not ingrained—they are taught, they are learned. This is a time to turn the tide and teach our children about the kind of society we want for their future.

While events before and since Ferguson have spotlighted systemic injustices, it is important to also recognize the good done by the majority of police officers on a daily basis in communities around the country. It is important to note for children that as shots rang out in Dallas, police protected protesters and ran toward the sound in hopes of keeping people safe. Police and other first responders can be a resource of help. Families’ experiences may vary widely, so discussions will also vary. While not shying away from the realities of current events, be mindful of the age of children as you talk with them. We are at a long-overdue “tipping point” for improving relationships and trust in our communities. We can and should all be a part of this change.

The protests about police injustice and the attacks on officers are not an “either-or” issue, but are two important, interrelated conversations.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents championed the importance of acts of kindness. We should discuss this with our children, too.

As children may be worried about safety and security issues, it is important to share with our children what communities are doing to keep everyone safe. It is also important to help children consider how they would like to show an act of kindness. This may be participating in a community event/vigil for healing. It may be writing a letter or creating a drawing for community first responders or other positive figures in the community; it may be helping a neighbor or a friend in some small way. Rather than tell our children how to act with kindness, let’s be role models by our own actions and words. Let’s include them in the conversation. Oftentimes the ideas of children, even the very young, and teens surprise and impress us! We all have heard the quote, “children are our future,” perhaps now, more than ever, we need to decide what kind of future this will be.

For more information and tips, check out the resources and articles below.

Related Resources:

 

Recent News Articles:

Biography:

Dr. Robin Gurwitch has been involved in understanding the impact of terrorism and disasters on children since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, providing direct service, training, and conducting research. She is a member of the APA Disaster Resource Network, American Red Cross, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Gurwitch was recently appointed to the HHS National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.

 

 

 


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: Children, children's mental health, Dallas, difficult dialogues, excessive force, Louisiana, mass shootings, Minnesota, police brutality, police shootings, policing, race relations, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, social justice, trauma, violence