EPIC Blog: How to Talk to Kids About Race - 4KIDS
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EPIC Blog: How to Talk to Kids About Race

July 17th, 2020 l Author: Terri Galindo, LCSW, LMFT

As parents, there are so many important conversations that we must have with children. We often call them, “The Talks.” They could be about faith, race, sex, or career choice. It is important that we prepare ourselves through prayer, wisdom, and our own or other’s experiences. We want to take children on a journey that will end with acceptance, peace, and reconciliation. In order to do that, we have to take ourselves on that journey, as well.

Begin with God

Like every important thing in our lives, we begin with our relationship with God. Scripture tells us that we are all created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), that we are reconciled to God through Jesus – we all are His (2 Cor 5:18). In Joshua 3, we are told that God has to be put first, then we will know which way to go. We can pray for wisdom which will be freely given to us (James 1:5).

We are called to be in unity with all people. We are called to minister to all who are in need. We should never dismiss the role of sin in the disunity and mixed messages of the world.

Examine your Heart

Examining your heart is an important piece of preparing for a discussion (Ps 139:23-24, 2 Cor 13:5). If you have not reconciled the subject within yourself, the conversation might go very differently than you would like. Is there something stirring in you that might be preventing you from having this conversation? Be aware of your thoughts. Recognize how your upbringing and experiences might have influence on your beliefs and behaviors – good or bad. Bring those experiences into the conversation and repent, if needed. Understand that children are watching you to determine how they should behave.

Recognize that these conversations are important. If they are not had because of your fear or indifference, children will seek the answers to their questions elsewhere. We want our children to receive these important messages with the view of God, not have them seek answers from a worldly view.

The first instinct might be to dismiss the questions because we want to shield them from upsetting things. While we need to protect children, it is still important to be responsive when they are seeking answers and, especially, when they are upset by something. Bringing a topic to light is the beginning to a correct path. Problems can be managed and resolved only when addressed. We cannot ignore them and pretend they will go away or resolve themselves in a way in which we will be happy. This is the tough work of parenting.

Monitor Information

Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Media Coverage. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides excellent guidance in the area of media. The younger the child, the less exposure s/he should have. You may choose to eliminate all exposure for very young children. Watch and discuss with children and teens. Watch what they watch, then discuss the news stories with them, asking about their thoughts and feelings about what they saw, read, or heard and correct any misunderstandings or confusion. Ask older children and teens about what they have seen on the internet or what they have heard through social media technologies (text, Facebook, Twitter), in order to get a better sense of their thoughts, fears, concerns, and point-of-view. Seize opportunities for communication. Use newsbreaks that interrupt family viewing or newspaper/web images as opportunities to open conversation. Be available to talk about children’s feelings, thoughts, and concerns, and reassure them of their safety and of plans to keep them safe.

Monitor Adult Conversations

Be careful of what you and other adults say; children often listen when adults are unaware and may misunderstand what they hear. Make sure you add the good news. Let your children or teen know about successful community efforts. You may want to share positive media images, such as reports of individuals helping those in need. Reassure your children and teens that many people and organizations are working to help to resolve the problem. This will give them a sense that adults are actively taking steps to protect those that are currently suffering. Consider ways that your family can become involved in the solution. Expose children to the facts. Use a discerning eye to weed through all of the misinformation and reactions of the day. Look at the big picture. Be willing to address history and current events and how they connect. Be willing to listen with an open heart to all stories.

Create an Agenda

Tony Evans speaks about a “Kingdom Agenda” in his talk about race. He identifies four areas that need to be addressed – the individual, the family, the church, and civil leaders. Individuals cannot even begin to change the nation until they look inward. The individual might have areas of his heart that needs to be changed and turned towards fellow men. Then, the individual can speak up for unrighteousness.

Parents must transfer values to their children. Children cannot be expected to act differently than the parent’s leading. Teach children the principles of character. Commit to bonding with other families who are different. Then reach out to others in need. Reconciliation starts with service.

The church as a whole, unfortunately, has not always dealt very well with the sin of racism. We must come together as brothers and sisters to reconcile this problem together. We must help others while also holding them accountable. The church must have one voice in standing up against corporate and systemic sin.

We must challenge our civic leaders to act to unify and heal. We can encourage them to act and speak civilly. Then God will make us repairers of the breach and healers of the land (Isaiah 58:12).