Introduction for Parents
This conversation guide is designed to help you talk to your young person about a racially charged encounter they’ve experienced. It’s crucial to approach this conversation with sensitivity, openness, and a non-judgmental attitude. Your goal is to provide a safe space for your child to express their feelings, validate their experience, and offer support. Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers; being present and listening is powerful.
Starting the Conversation
Find a quiet, comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted. Ensure it’s a good time for both of you to talk. Begin by gently acknowledging that you want to talk about what happened, and assure your child of their safety and your unconditional support.
“I heard about what happened today, and I want you to know that I’m here for you. Would you like to talk about it?”
Active Listening and Validating Feelings
Encourage your child to share their story. Listen actively without interrupting. Show that you’re engaged with nods and affirmations.
“Take your time. I’m listening, and your feelings are important to me.”
Validate their feelings by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation and their emotional response.
“It makes sense that you’re feeling [angry/upset/confused]—what happened wasn’t fair or right.”
Exploring Feelings and Impact
Ask open-ended questions to understand the full impact of the encounter on your child’s feelings and thoughts.
“How has this experience affected you?” “What thoughts have been going through your mind since it happened?”
Empowering Through Affirmation
Reaffirm your child’s worth and strength, and acknowledge their right to be treated with respect.
“You are valued and your experiences are valid. No one has the right to make you feel otherwise.”
Discussing Coping Mechanisms
Talk about healthy ways to cope with the distressing emotions and stress related to the encounter.
“Let’s think about what might help you feel better. Some people find it helpful to [write about their feelings/talk to someone they trust/do something they enjoy]. What do you think might work for you?”
Seeking Further Support
Offer to seek additional support together if your child is struggling to cope.
“Would you like to talk to someone else about this? Maybe a counselor or a mentor? We can look for someone together.”
Planning for Future Encounters
Discuss strategies for dealing with similar situations in the future, emphasizing safety and self-care.
“If something like this happens again, what do you think would be a good way to handle it?” “It’s important to keep yourself safe. Remember that you can always walk away and talk to me or another adult you trust.”
Reassurance of Support
Conclude the conversation by reassuring your child of your ongoing support and love.
“I’m proud of you for talking about this—it’s not easy. I’m always here for you, no matter what.”
Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with your child in the days and weeks following the conversation to see how they’re doing and if they want to talk more.
“I wanted to check in to see how you’re feeling today. I’m here if you want to talk more about it or anything else on your mind.”
Remember to tailor the conversation to the age and maturity level of your child, and be prepared for a range of emotions. Your child may not want to open up immediately, and that’s okay. Give them time and let them know you’re available when they’re ready.