This post “Uncomfortable Conversations: How To Talk To Your Teens About Racism” is made possible with support from the Center for Parent and Teen Communication at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. All opinions are my own.
As a parent, you want to be there for your children when they need it. You want them to feel heard and supported. But when it comes to things like racial injustices, how do you have these conversations with teens? How can we help our black teens understand the racial injustices that are going on in our world today? If this is a conversation you are struggling with within your household, here are a few tips and resources from experts on how to talk about race with your teen!
What is racial injustice?
Before you attempt to have a conversation with your kids about racial injustices, it’s important to first understand what racial injustices are before your attempt to learn How To Talk To Your Teens About Racism.
Define racial injustices – Racial injustices are the unfair treatment of people based on their someone’s race. Here are a few examples of racial injustice:
Discrimination can occur when applying for jobs, types of housing, and education opportunities because one is not white or does not have a certain skin tone. Another example would be racial profiling in stores by store workers who assume people of color shoplift but don’t racially profile white people. Another example of racial injustices is racial prejudices which involves judging all members of a group as having similar characteristics.
What causes these issues?
There are many reasons why there could be an injustice issue happening within our society today- some include unequal access to quality education, lack of opportunity due to economic factors like poverty, and employment barriers such as job discrimination against people of color.
How to discuss the impact of racial injustice on teens
Although it is natural for teens to want to know more about what’s going on in the world and why we’re hearing so much about race, it can be hard for them to conceptualize how these issues impact their lives. To help your teen understand racial injustices better – there are some things you might consider including when talking with them:
Have a conversation about “white privilege”.
Talk about the presence of “white privilege” or “privilege” based on skin tone and how often it creates an imbalance in power dynamics between people of color and white people.
For example, a black person may experience being asked by police officers if they belong where they are while walking down the street because they look out of place (oftentimes this includes looking like someone who has committed a crime). Make sure you acknowledge that these feelings are normal responses to unfair treatment because it can be hard for them to see how race affects their day-to-day life on an emotional level.
Another thing you might want to mention when talking about this topic with your teens is what happens if we don’t talk about race or do anything about racism in our society. Ultimately if things stay the same, people will continue feeling oppressed or discriminated against based solely on ethnicity which could lead to increased mental health issues for everyone (especially young black men who already struggle in the area).
What is the impact of racial injustice?
Teens may have trouble understanding why they are being treated differently and feel frustrated, sad, angry. In an interview with the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, Riana Elyse Anderson, PhD, LCP summed it up perfectly when she said “talking about racial injustice is not going to be a one-and-done conversation, this issue has not been solved“.
The mental health impact of racial injustice on teens
It’s important to make sure that your teen is aware that there are many things they can do about these issues they face and that all is not lost. If they’re feeling frustrated or want to learn more, one way would be by volunteering with a social impact group like Black Lives Matter and/or donating money to help groups in need (such as Justice for Families).
Identify ways to have conversations about race with your teen
When talking to your teens about racial injustice It’s important you don’t come across as preachy or judgmental. This will only create more distance between the two of you and it makes it hard for them to hear what you’re saying in a meaningful way. Be patient, understanding, and nonjudgmental when bringing up these topics with teens so they can feel seen and heard.
Discuss stories from outside sources like movies and news articles together as a family, this helps keep the discussion grounded in facts rather than opinionated opinions which could make things harder for everyone involved if tensions arise over personal beliefs regarding current events.
If you’re still struggling with how to start the conversation, start by asking them questions about their life. And try to make it a two-way conversation so your teen knows they’re being heard and that these issues are important to you as well.
For more support on how to have honest conversations with teens or any other parenting topic, check out the Center for Parent and Teen Communication’s website.
Lead by example and advocate for other students by ensuring racial injustices are addressed at your teen’s school
It is crucial that we address race education in our public school curriculum because not only does understanding race help people move forward together—it also helps dismantle oppression from its roots which will allow everyone to feel seen again.
For example, in California, there are some schools that have banned the use of Native American imagery and mascots because it’s offensive to those who identify as such.
Schools should be more proactive when addressing these issues by hosting discussions about race with students or support groups for teens of color so they can get their voices heard on how racial injustices affect them personally. If your teen’s school does not offer this, consider bringing it to their attention and spearheading a program.
Offer resources for further reading and reflection
If your teen likes to read they might feel more comfortable reading about the topic of racial injustice. Here are a few excellent books on the tops ideal for teens and young adults:
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates
- This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made America Violent–And Why It Can Be Tamed by Charles E. Cobb Jr., Carl Anthony, Heather Thompson
For online resources for parents of teens of color check out:
- The Center for Parent and Teen Communication (CPTC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) offers parents and caring adults science-backed, practical strategies to help teens thrive. Scholars have teamed up with CPTC to produce culturally responsive parenting content that builds upon cultural strengths and addresses unique stressors families of color face when raising teens today.
Be prepared for questions and comments
It’s important to know that your teen might have questions or comments during your discussion.
For one, they may be wondering why people who are not of the same race as them care about their experiences and want to talk with them when there are other problems going on in the world?
Talk to your teens about how all human beings should work together so we can create a better future for everyone – because it doesn’t matter what color skin you have.
It’s important that your teen understands they are not alone in this battle and their feelings matter. If you’re interested in talking more about racial injustices or just looking for an outlet from the emotional pain these issues can really dive into the resources I’ve provided.
In order to address these issues head-on, we need to keep talking about what is happening—and continue discussing ways we can make things better together while understanding how mental health plays a role in all of this. Your teens never need to go through life alone and mental health is always something worth taking care of!