Mental health experts weigh in on how to talk to children about racial equality

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – What do you tell your child when they ask questions about racial equality, marches, and protests?

It can be a tough topic to talk about.

Marches and protests are going on around the world supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and people are asking for social justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In the Tri-Cities region, there have been several protests over the past few weeks.

Your child may have questions about what is going on in the world and you may not have all the answers.

Local experts are weighing in on how to talk to your child about racial equality.

“It’s been a hard conversations and I feel necessary conversations as well,” said Khia Hudgins-Smith, a Marriage and Family Therapist at The Journey Center for Healing Arts, PLLC.

As children see demonstrations and riots going on in their community and on television, they may be asking you, the parent, some tough questions.

“The way that I try to position it is when you’re young and you want something done sometimes you have to kick and scream. You’re angry but you don’t have words so you act out. It comes from a very emotional place,” Hudgins-Smith explains.

The way you explain the Black Lives Matter Movement to your kids may also depend on their age.

“If you have younger kids you might want to assure them that they’re safe and that this is an important part of what happens in the United States. People who feel there has been an injustice speak out,” said physiologist, Dr. Jodi Polaha, “For older children and teens, seeing the process through to protests, to conversations to hopefully policy changes that’s how you show them what we do, how people have a voice here.”

For a younger child, asking them counter questions may help them understand better.

“So for a five-year-old, what do you do when you get upset? Do you kick and scream? Do you throw things? Yeah, absolutely for a five-year-old. Well, that’s what’s happening, but they’re trying to do that in a way that’s productive,” explains Hudgins-Smith.

Both Hudgins-Smith and Dr. Polaha say it’s important for parents to learn themselves when answering these tough questions.

“I think it really depends on how old your child is and what your own beliefs are about democracy, but this is a real opportunity to teach,” said Dr. Polaha.

“Never stop learning. If you’re a parent, never miss an opportunity to grow,” said Hudgins-Smith.

These mental health experts say to keep an open dialog with your kids and talk to them about what’s going on in the world even if they are not asking questions.

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