Updated: Oct 30, 2020
This year was already going down in history thanks to COVID-19. Now, with the murder of George Floyd, 2020 will be that much more significant in the history books. How do we talk about racism with our teens?
We can go one of two ways during this time: open discussion or shut down.
We can use this opportunity to have healthy, open discussions about social injustice. Or not. We could just sit back and not engage in uncomfortable conversations. The conversations might be uncomfortable for us, but they are needed.
It’s not about our comfort at this time. It’s about helping our nation, society, and family strengthen love and challenge racism and hate.
Here are some ways to engage in meaningful, healthy dialogue with your teen over tough issues like racism.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Give your teen, and family, the space to talk openly about their thoughts on racism and discrimination. Open ended questions can help start conversations. Ask questions like, “What do you think about what happened to George Floyd? How can we respond to racism? What do you think our country needs right now?” Open ended questions help us think about and process big topics.
Refrain from Judgement
A common reason we do not talk about racism is because of fear. Fear of rejection, hostility, anger, resentment or hurt feelings. Create a safe space for your teen to talk freely by validating their perspective. They might have a different perspective than you. That’s okay. Teens are exploring their identity and how they view the world. It’s natural for them to challenge or question traditional and/or parental thinking.
Seek to understand their perspective. Validate their perspective, then challenge thoughts that don’t make sense, are prejudiced or racist. Challenge their thoughts without shaming or judging them. Refrain from judgement by seeing the person behind the opinion.
Be Honest and Open
Teens see through BS. If parents give a sugar coated, fake response, they will tune out what you say. Be honest with your perspective on these hard topics. Allow yourself NOT to have all the answers when talking about difficult topics. It can be healthy to think through complicated ideas with your teen rather than try to have all the answers. They will respect you for it.
Be open to challenge your own thoughts. Having open discussions about racism could lead to your own perspectives being challenged. Be open to how your thoughts or beliefs could be prejudice or racist. We are not perfect. We all have biases or some prejudice. Be courageous enough to challenge those thoughts and work to be more understanding than before.
Find Small Solutions
Finding solutions for systemic racism and discrimination are overwhelming. However, talk with your teen about how they can find small solutions around them.
Look around your immediate circle and see how you can make a positive impact. Start with how you interact on social media, in the community, and with family and friends. Engage in a healthy dialogue with others about spreading love and equality to minorities and the oppressed. Challenge a family member’s racist thought process. Have the courage to stand up for what is right even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Most importantly, we all should be challenging our own prejudice and discrimination. Simply saying, “I’m not like that,” should not exclude you from self-examination. Get feedback from friends, colleagues, and people you don’t know to see how you can move more towards love and acceptance.
Constantly checking our internal thoughts and mindsets is one of the best ways to challenge racism.
To Be Continued…
It’s fantastic to have one tough conversation about racism. It’s even better to have ongoing conversations. Continue to engage with your teen about racism and their thoughts on how to respond. The more you talk with your teen about tough topics the more they will trust you when they need to talk about something tough.
If we never talk to our teens about discrimination, prejudice, global warming, sex, and drugs they will form perspectives and ideas based on other influences. Have a positive influence on your teen and talk about tough topics with them, not at them.
Have open conversations so they can explore their thoughts and feelings on big topics. Validate their perspective, build trust, and refrain from judgement. Be honest with where you’re coming from and know your limitations. Problem-solve to find solutions to make a positive impact. Keep the lines of communication open by talking regularly with your teen.
I challenge you to use these 5 tips not just with your teen, but with others. Be bold enough to have open conversations that can lead to positive solutions to change your community and our country.