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GENERAL SUGGESTIONS WHEN HAVING CONVERSATIONS WITH CHILDREN
Sometimes children want more information than we are able to share or that we actually know. Here are some phrases that might help.
- “It sounds like you are sad” (angry, confused, frustrated, etc).” (affirming feelings)
- “I don’t know the answer to that.” (if you don’t or if you are not sure: then focus back on feelings)
- “It’s hard when we don’t know all the facts.” (truth telling but not stating more than we’re able to tell)
- “We have to respect the privacy of those affected.” It’s not our news to tell and people will share their news in their way and in their own time.
- “There are a lot of ways to feel and they are all okay.” Sometimes you might feel one way and then you might feel another way later on.
- “There is no one right way to feel or to act after someone dies.”
- “What would you like to do right now (who would you like to talk to) that might help?”
Supporting by Listening Through Grief, Loss, or other strong emotions
- Most often, what people want most is someone to talk to about their experience:
- Someone to care
- Someone to really listen
- Someone to lean on or cry with
- How to let people know you are listening
- Actively listen when someone needs to talk: turn toward the speaker, speak calmly, listen more than speak, summarize, reflect.
- Make eye contact if appropriate and strive for a warm facial expression
- Listen more, talk less
- Your compassionate presence is more important than your words.
- Try not to interrupt.
- When you do speak, do it in a calm, warm tone
- Label, summarize, and mirror the feelings the other person is expressing.
- Do ask questions to clarify.
- Things NOT to say
- I know how you feel. (But it is okay to say, “I feel sad too.”)
- Let’s talk about something else.
- You should work toward getting over this.
- You are strong enough to deal with this.
- You’ll feel better soon.
- You need to relax.
- Also, don’t judge. Questions like “Why?” and “Why not?”and evaluating the worth of what someone else did or didn’t do don’t help.
Children may show some of these behaviors immediately or days, weeks, or even months after an incident.
Behaviors to watch for:
- Restlessness, anger, aggressive behavior
- Sleeping or eating difficulties
- Headaches, tummy aches, body aches
- Sadness, tearfulness
- Poor concentration
- Unexpected fears and worries
- Acting younger than their age
- School avoidance
HELPFUL LINKS TO SPECIFICALLY ADDRESS THE TOPIC OF RACISM
- CNN Sesame Street Town Hall Originally aired on 6/6/20
- How to talk to kids about race The Atlantic (YouTube)
- How I teach about racism to kindergarten and grade one Naomi O’Brien (YouTUbe)
- How to be boldly anti-racist - K-2 Naomi O’Brien (YouTube)
- Strategies for teachers offered by Minneapolis School Counselor, Derek Francis
Book Lists and Readings:
- 31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism, and resistance EmbraceRace
- Books about Racism and Social Justice Common Sense Media
- Coretta Scott King Award Winners Common Sense Media
- Social Justice Books by category
- Ms. Flete's Playlist on Embracing Diversity: Several read alouds included (YouTube)
- A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory (YouTube)
- Teaching Your Child About Black History PBS Kids
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
- Sesame Street: We´re Different, We´re the Same, and We´re All Wonderful by Bobbi Jane Kates
- The Skin You Live In by Michael J. Tyler
Interviews/Advice from Experts:
- How to Talk to Kids About Race and Racism Parent Toolkit
- Talking to Children after racial incidents from the Penn GSE Newsroom
- Talking to Kids About Discrimination American Psychological Association
- Social Justice National Association of School Psychologists
- Talking to Kids About Racial Stereotypes Media Smarts
- Activities that Promote Racial and Cultural Awareness PBS
- Teaching About Race, Racism, and Police Violence from Teaching Tolerance
- Beyond the Golden Rule Teaching Tolerance
- Talking with Kids about Race and Racism: A Community Conversation from the Oakland Public Library
- 60+ Resources for Talking to Kids About Racism Bounceback Parenting (includes books lists by age)
- Discussing Difficult Situations with Your Children National PTA
- Race and Equity Resources National School Counselor Association
Talking About Race Web Portal National Museum of African American History and Culture