Today as we celebrate Inauguration Day, we’re mindful of how the last few months of intense current events – both positive and negative – have affected our children. With many of their support systems missing, and relentless news stories about political strife, racial violence, school closings, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, children of all ages may be feeling sad, confused, angry, or scared. Children and youth are struggling to make sense of all the fear and uncertainty. It can be hard for parents and caregivers to know exactly what to say, especially when many are struggling to process the distressing events for themselves.
There is no right way to address these tough topics, but it’s important to include kids in the conversation. Don’t avoid talking about it. Children of all ages are highly perceptive. Even if they’re not old enough to read the news themselves, they are listening to adult conversations and taking emotional cues from our reactions. Now more than ever, they need reassurance from the trusted adults in their lives.
Resources for Talking to Kids about Challenging Issues
Child development experts have provided a wealth of resources for talking to children about violence, racism, political and social upheaval and processing big emotions. We’ve included a list of some of our favorite resources below:
- From Child Mind Institute: Racism and Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News
- From NPR: What to Say to Kids When the News is Scary.
- From Center for Racial Justice in Education: Resources for Talking About Race, Racism and Racialized Violence with Kids.
- EmbraceRace: Focused on raising a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.
- From National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Surviving and Thriving: Conversations about Community Violence and COVID-19.
- For parents of Black children, from the Center for Law and Social Policy: Half-Truths, the Capitol Insurrection, and My Black Son
- For parents of white children, from Common Sense Media: How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
Resources for School-Age Children
- From National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.
Resources for Young Children
- Program for Early Parent Support: Anti-Racist Resources for Parents
- Devereux Center for Resilient: Resources for Parents and Families of Preschoolers
It’s okay to let children know that adults are struggling to process the situation too. Taking the time to validate kids’ feelings, stating the facts of the situation, sharing your own emotional reactions, and responding to their questions will help children feel more supported, even when things are uncertain. Important issues like racism, violence, and inequity won’t be solved in a single conversation. Keep the door open for ongoing conversations and questions. Reassure kids that they can come to you whenever they need to talk.
We will continue to share resources and opportunities to speak up against violence and racism, on behalf of our children. These are crucial conversations – especially in times of crisis.