With the recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, many children have witnessed these events through media or participated in rallies with their families. In light of these incidents, I wanted to share some coping strategies I previously wrote several years ago following similar events.
The following tips may be helpful to create resiliency in youth.
- Before providing children with your opinion and beliefs about injustice, allow your child the opportunity to give their point of view. For parents of color, children may also need help in developing coping skills for dealing with racism and discrimination they will encounter in the world.
- Keep things simple. As adults we are so used to interacting with other adults that we forget that young children do not view the world in terms of stereotypes, discrimination, and race. Young children view the world in far simpler terms.
- Be age appropriate. Younger children need limited information. If your child is a teenager, they may have already experienced racism and this will create opportunities to discuss better ways to deal with racism.
- It is important to monitor your negative emotions and “passion” surrounding racism and injustice around your children. Although it may be counter-intuitive (or feel unnatural), displaying your negative frustrations without resolution will not help your child be resilient.
- Be mindful of inappropriate racial socialization (i.e., talking with your children about race and racial experiences) has been found to lead to increased anger among African American youth. One study found that African American boys who reported receiving frequent messages reinforcing cultural pride also reported higher levels of situational anger (Stevenson, Reed, Bodison, & Bishop, 1997). It is possible that through socialization these boys were made aware of the unfair treatment experienced by African Americans, but were not given corresponding messages regarding appropriate ways to manage the anger that results when one feels unjustly treated.
- Get involved in peaceful protest or become an advocate to combat social injustice. Not only can this help support efforts to address racism but it can teach your child more about the political process of change. For example, you could help your child write a letter to their local or national politician to encourage changes in laws.
- Seek emotional support. It is important to find someone who you can confide in about your experience or frustration. If needed, speak to a therapist or psychologist who is trained to help people cope with stress.
Copyright 2016 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.
A version of this blog was previously written and posted by Dr. Turner on Psychology Today