While we wonder if last week’s sequence of shootings are a turning point in some way for our country, well-intentioned voices are asking how we talk to our children about what happened in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas.
It is the same after every violent tragedy we collectively experience.
But is it possible that we focus on our children because we don’t want to focus on ourselves? I think so. Our fear can be overwhelming. It can feel like the world is descending into chaos and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
We don’t want to deal with our own feelings so we focus on our children’s. We worry about how they will process the violence, rage, sadness, and injustice without thinking about how we are processing those very same feelings. But the irony is we won’t be able to provide the wisdom and a sense of safety our children desperately need unless we reflect for ourselves first.
When you become a parent that way of thinking should be a requirement, not an option.
That means we have to ask ourselves questions we want to avoid—except if you’re Black because than these questions never leave your mind. You carry them around with you like a thousand pound weight. But for those of us who don’t we need to ask ourselves:
- What do we think of some police killing these black men?
- What do we feel when we watch those videos?
- What is our experience with racism?
- How do we feel when someone becomes so enraged at those events, has access to weapons and targets white police officers?
Whatever our opinion, have we educated ourselves about the various responses that we (and inevitably our children) are seeing in the media?
How can we process what we see and hear in the media and conversations swirling around us in an appropriate and educated way? Or, will we be controlled by our first and, not usually our most informed, reactions. Under this category I would place the following topics:
- Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter
- Why some people believe that if only everyone “just followed the rules” they won’t get into trouble
- People, usually politicians, who blame and attack others to increase our fear, mistrust, and hatred
And, do we know another adult we can talk to about these issues before we talk to our children? Because we need support as we figure these questions out.
Our children want our emotional honesty. They want to look at us and believe we are doing something to make the world a better place, a safer place, a more fair and just place. We don’t have to have all the answers to everything to do that. We can admit our feelings but then give them reason to hope.
What’s the best way for us to give them hope? They have to see us in action making the world better. And I’m not talking about going to their games or volunteering at school. They need to see us doing something that address the injustices in our own communities. They need to see us having the courage to face people who disagree with us, treat them with dignity, while not backing down from what we believe in. And if we haven’t done it before, it means we take this opportunity to do it now. Now.