With devastating headlines pouring in and given the current political climate of our country, it can feel impossible to go anywhere without a serious topic coming up in conversation. We know that our kids are subjected to this overload of information as well, regardless of how much we wish we could keep them safe from it. Often, there are serious things happening even in our own backyards that will affect our kids, but we don’t always know how to bridge that gap of trying to talk with them about it. But no matter how hard, it’s important that we try. While so much is happening in our communities, and so much is changing in our culture, it is not in our nature as Purposeful Hustlers to stay on the sidelines. Part of figuring out how to best engage with the things we care most about is figuring out how to help our children process what is happening in the world around them.
Children have an amazing capacity to be loving and generous, and to distinguish what is right from what is wrong. It is our job to create spaces for them to do so. Here’s what I recommend:
Though it may feel challenging, the best thing you can do is be thoughtful, intentional and explicit about having difficult conversations with your kids when you feel upset or affected by something that is happening. They will appreciate your honesty and directness. Try something like, “Hey, this is something that has been bothering me, and I want to talk with you about it.” Being informative about what is happening and vulnerable about how it makes you feel will help your child better understand a situation and its significance. They may hear upsetting news from peers, teachers or the internet, and knowing that you are available, able and interested in talking with them about it will create a safe space.
Help them understand how you’re using your purpose:
Sharing your purpose with your children is one of the most empowering things you can do for them. When they hear that you’re taking action about something you are upset about or that you are pursuing a higher purpose in your day to day life, bad news makes them feel less helpless. Following up a conversation about something heartbreaking by talking about what you or others are doing in response or the good work happening in that area gives kids a fuller picture of the truth. They can learn from a young age that there is both good and evil happening in the world and that a lot of the time they coexist at the same time. Knowing that you are working to make the world a better place will make your children feel like they too are capable of creating positive social change.
If you’re wondering how your child feels about an incident or how it’s affecting them, the best way to learn is directly asking them and making space to just hear them out. Allow them to talk about and process how they’re feeling without telling them how they should be reacting. You will learn the best way to respond or how to best handle a situation by first learning how your child feels about it.
Look for resources:
You are not the first person to contemplate how to have these tough conversations, and you definitely will not be the last. Because of this, there are tools out there to help you tackle different important topics with your kids. If you don’t know how to bring up or describe an incident or situation in an effective way to your child, try looking up a video or a book. Equipping your children with books that touch on or speak to important topics allows them to explore, consider and process big topics on their own. This can be so powerful when they reach conclusions or gain insights on their own accord. For example, my books I Am a Boy of Color and I Am a Girl of Color can be tools for children to explore topics of race and identity. Another cool way to introduce your child to a tricky topic is by bringing them to an event. If you go to something together, then you have a shared experience to build a conversation off of. This can be a great jumping off point and also a way for your child to see that other people care about a particular issue too.
Many of us are overwhelmed by and anxious about the thought of addressing serious societal issues with our children. But it is so deeply important that we do. We must dive in and utilize these four tactics to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to comprehend and reflect upon what is happening in the world around them.