To keep it short, act now. Today’s events erupted the intersection between President Donald Trump’s harmful rhetoric and our nation’s history with white supremacy. And when it comes to race, it’s important to have discussions early on. The American Psychological Association says even infants can be aware of race and that preschoolers can develop racist beliefs.
“Even if adults don’t talk to kids about race, children will work to make sense of their world and will come up with their own ideas, which may be inaccurate or detrimental,” Dr. Jessica Sullivan said, who conducted such research.
In looking at processing traumatic events like school shootings, the APA says it’s natural for children to worry. It recommends using the opportunity to talk and listen to your children and remain honest, but also to reassure people (and yourself) are working to keep them safe. Limiting exposure to news coverage is also a good idea.
Communication and reactions vary with age. The APA explains younger children might use a combination of play and talking. Older kids most likely will verbally communicate. And while children are resilient, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of anxiety, like sleeplessness, stomachaches or change in school performance.
Morinsola Keshinro, a child life specialist at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, put it well in explaining death to children: “You as a parent know your child best. Some children are information seekers and others need less information. You will be able to recognize when they need more support than you alone can give.”
The best way to start is to prepare. Below we have developed a starting framework so that you and your family can be informed, honest and open.