I come to this piece recognizing that my audience is racially diverse, and that I am a privileged white woman. My learning and education of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) will be ongoing, and I understand that the privilege I hold makes it be that I will never fully understand, and I open the opportunity for others to continue educating me. In this piece, I want to encourage and support how families start and continue to have difficult and real conversations about what is happening across America and in our neighborhoods in Minnesota. The content of these conversations is dependent on your family structure and values, the age development of your children, and the resources you consume. It is important to be truthful in your conversations as a family, and monitor developmentally appropriate content for any younger ears.
First, parents, educate yourselves about racial diversity and the current/ongoing events in our society. For my white audience, I encourage you to find humility in your search for education and your search for ways of understanding the experiences our BIPOC neighbors and friends hold. As parents, align yourselves in how you want to lead your family in this time. Perhaps, you and your co-parent have different beliefs in which case, leading your family through this may come with its own challenges. Remember, as parents, you are guiding your children through their own exploration of thoughts and experiences in the world. You are able to have influence, and you are stepping alongside them in their journey to make sense of their world. As a family, root yourselves in your family values.
“As a family, we value _____, and because of this we choose to do _______ to live out this value.” The decisions we make and the actions we take reflect on our values.
The How: When having important, challenging, and potentially emotion-driven discussions, it’s important for us to create and maintain a safe structure and foundation for all parties involved. This can be accomplished by setting a specific time to talk and creating Ground Rules [No blaming, respect for each person’s perspective, no name calling, treat everyone with dignity, taking time outs, etc]. What we know about building safety in relationships, is the importance of each person being heard and validated in their perspective. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask clarifying questions – it’s the how that impacts the dynamic. When someone is feeling heated or their emotions heightening to an uncontrollable point, it may be a good time to take a “time out” or a break, and reconvene later. When you do reconvene, it’s important to reflect on what happened that required the break and repair, if necessary.
We all express ourselves in different ways. Sometimes, we find effective ways to send our message and we find validation, and sometimes we find ineffective ways and we hurt others in the process. We even experience times that we effectively send our message to others and we are repeatedly met with silence and minimal to no change. Right now, our American system is experiencing a great change. How our system has operated has hurt and endangered lives for centuries, and it requires a mass change to keep everybody safe. Nothing changes, if nothing changes – and change is uncomfortable and disruptive. Our country is experiencing a change, and it looks different than it has before. Parents, it is your role to lead your children through this time of change. Root your family in the values you hold and act upon those values. Show up for your kids and demonstrate how you want them to live in the world. I encourage you to continue these conversations with your family and friends, and with people that are racially diverse from you.