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How Do We Talk to Kids About Race and Racism?

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How Do We Talk to Kids About Race and Racism?

June 04, 2020 | Dr. Carla Easter, Dr. Seth Shaffer, Dr. Karmen Rouland and Mariela Puentes
dad talking to his daughter sitting on a couch Show Notes:

The alarming events over the past weeks have raised a critical question for parents: how do we talk to kids about race and racism? This week on the Family Room we unpack this complex issue so you can help your child process what is going on. We were joined again by NIH’s Dr. Carla Easter, and education experts from the CAFE team, Dr. Karmen Rouland, Program Manager and Mariela Puentes, Program Associate. Stay tuned for additional information on how we will be addressing this issue on a future webinar.

Megan: Welcome to The Family Room. For today, we are switching our topics slightly. We are going to not only be exploring your genes, but also talking about race given today’s climate. Carla Easter will be here with us and we’re going to cover a couple of logistics, but then get into our conversation right away.

[00:00:25] Because we know it’s relevant and timely, and we want to give everyone the opportunity to be part of the discussion and enter in a...

Megan: Welcome to The Family Room. For today, we are switching our topics slightly. We are going to not only be exploring your genes, but also talking about race given today’s climate. Carla Easter will be here with us and we’re going to cover a couple of logistics, but then get into our conversation right away.

[00:00:25] Because we know it’s relevant and timely, and we want to give everyone the opportunity to be part of the discussion and enter in any conversation or questions you have in the chat box today.

[00:00:37] My name is Megan and I am with Turning the Page. The Family Room is a collaboration between MAEC and Turning the Page. And you’re going to hear a little bit more about us before we begin.

[00:00:49] In today’s family room, obviously we’re going to have some welcome and introductions, and we’re going to explore top of mind, what’s going on. We’re going to revisit our genes with Carla Easter. Have some question time with her. And then have a question corner with Dr. Seth Shaffer, Dr. Karmen Rouland and education specialist, Mariela Puentes. And then a wrap up as well.

[00:01:13] Obviously logistics for today are going to be pretty straightforward in terms of using the question answer box as well as a chat box, or if you’re on Facebook, the comment box. Really, we encourage you to be there. We want to be open ears and open hearts for anything that you may be sharing with us today.

[00:01:33] Turning the Page is an organization that works to unite schools, communities and high quality resources across DC and Chicago. And I’m excited to pass it over to Karmen from MAEC to discuss her organization. And also talk about today’s change in topic.

[00:01:55] Dr. Rouland: Thank you, Megan. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Karmen Rouland. I’m just going to share some brief, introductions around the collaborative action for family engagement, which is the statewide family engagement center for Maryland and Pennsylvania. We are a project of the Mid-Atlantic equity consortium, which was founded in 1991 as an education nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to high quality education for culturally, linguistically and economically diverse learners.

[00:02:24] We envision a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high level. And our mission is to promote excellence and equity and education to achieve social justice.

[00:02:39] The Collaborative Action for Family Engagement Center, as I said, is a project of MAEC. We work with school districts and education agencies and everyone in between and families to support them in being active and engaged in their child’s education. We work with school districts and in school and the state based education agencies to employ cultural, responsive family engagement practices. And to ensure that we build relationships with trust, among schools, parents, and community organizations.

[00:03:12] And all of that is to improve the, education and healthy development and the academic achievement of all students. So we’re glad that you joined us for today’s Family Room webinar that, we’ve Turning the Page, our partners.

[00:03:28] Today, we decided to shift slightly from the planned Family Room topic due to the recent murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others. In fact, the Memorial service for George Floyd is happening right now as we speak, so we’d like to take a moment of silence just to acknowledge the seriousness and the nature of what’s happening in our country today.

[00:03:53] So please join me and a brief moment of silence.

[00:04:02] [silence]

[00:04:07] Thank you. Thank you.

[00:04:10] We recognize that several of you signed up before the shift in direction of our Family Room, and we hope that you will find this conversation just as relevant and useful. We have heard from many parents over the last several days and weeks that they want to have discussions with their children about race and racial injustice, but they don’t know where to begin.

[00:04:36] So today we are hoping to do two things. The first is that we want to provide you with the space to ask questions, have your questions answered, and share with one another about how you are feeling and your own ideas for speaking with your children about race.

[00:04:53] The second is that we will provide you with some tips to get the conversation started. We’re going to unpack the term race and unpack the term racism.

[00:05:02] And finally, please join us next week as we continue the discussion. We will talk about developmentally appropriate ways to speak to your children about race, racism, and social injustice. And please remember to sign up for our weekly newsletter Learning at Home, where we share important resources affecting families today. We will put the link in the chat box.

[00:05:23] So let’s get started with the question. And this is a reflection question as a child, what is one message you received directly or indirectly about your race or racial identity? And this could be a message that you receive from your own family, from a teacher, community member, but what is one message that you received directly or indirectly or even peers?

[00:05:46] I’m thinking just as I’m talking about this, an example for me comes to mind when, I was in elementary school and I moved from a predominantly black area to a predominantly white area. And, as a fourth grader, I all of a sudden just realize how different I was. Just in terms of how I felt in the community, in my school. And that, and the messages there I received, you know, from my parents, they tried to instill in us that, you know, no matter our color that, you know, we do what we need to do in life. Go to school, get our education, try hard, learn well, and that being black is powerful. Being black is beautiful. And let no one tell you differently.

[00:06:31]And even with the recent events and the murder of George Floyd, even with my own daughter, who’s eight years old, she’s asked me about when has happened and why it has happened. And my husband and I have been, you know, trying to find the words to really describe to her what’s going on in the world and why we’re seeing what we’re seeing.

[00:06:52] And last night we went to a peaceful protest. We took the kids and we shared with them. We let, just let them see what it’s like beautifully coming together from all across all races and all walks of life. How folks are really trying to fight for justice and equality and equity. And so I just leave you with that as you’re sharing your own messages about what you, how you received messages about your own race, and racial identity, growing up, as a child.

[00:07:22]So I’d like to ask, are there any items in the chat box maybe that we could call out right now?

[00:07:32] Megan: So it doesn’t look like anyone has responded, actually, I think we might’ve just gotten one. So Barbara says raised as a working class, white family. We never really talked about it. Very different with her children. She was raised in the sixties, seventies.

[00:07:51] Dr. Rouland: Awesome.

[00:07:52] Megan: We also have, coming in from Maryland, that Lisa was told, always be proud and confident of who you are.

[00:08:04] Dr. Rouland: Thank you Megan.

[00:08:07] So we’d like to play a very short video with you prior to moving forward with today’s webinar. So, this video is about the history of race and just kind of how race came to be a construct in our society. And we’re going to talk more about that. So go ahead Megan.

[00:08:29] Video: Some that even when there isn’t that, this and that. Another way to think about it is this is particularly useful in thinking about race, is that we very quickly attached, deeply leaning to surface distinctions. One of my favorite ways of illustrating that is this. So most people, almost to the person actually when shown this and asked which two substances are most alike.

[00:08:52] Well immediately say the two substances that are the same color, and that is seen as very defensible in some ways. When told however, you know, that actually it’s the brown substance and one of the white substances that are alike, then the correction gets made. And people say, Oh, I bet I know why that is.

[00:09:11] And I said, why is that? I guess one of them is sugar and the other is brown sugar. And the other is salt, which is actually the case. And we know that the only difference between brown sugar and white sugar is that molasses was removed from one, to make it look a little bit different. It tastes a little bit different. But they are elementally alike.

[00:09:31] Whereas white sugar and salt are different in almost every way. Molecularly in terms of where they come from, in terms of how we use them, et cetera. This is what happens with race. People at a certain time in our history, 1600s into the 1700s through the 1800s, started to be captivated by the idea that surface distinctions between people meant something deeper than just the surface.

[00:09:58] What happened that was very unfortunate. Is that that…

[00:10:03] Megan: And we’re going to stop the video here, but we will be providing the link in our chat box and I encourage parents and educators to check that out after today’s webinar.

[00:10:15] Dr. Rouland: Thanks Megan. So that video, I think does a really good job of kind of starting to help us understand race and, how we get, how we’ve come to understand race in our society.

[00:10:26] And that there really is very little difference between all of us, we’re all human beings. And so I like to introduce Dr. Carla Easter, who’s from the National Institutes of Health, the National Human Genome Research Institute. It’s a mouthful. To continue the conversation and we’re just so glad to have her with us.

[00:10:46] And she, I just want to say that she was very open and flexible with switching, with us to shifting the conversation. So without further delay Dr. Easter.

[00:10:58] Dr. Easter: Thank you so much. So, I’m just gonna start by first saying thank you to everyone for inviting me. And I am absolutely honored to be here, to talk about a very important subject.

[00:11:11] And I’m hoping that what I will present today will help parents talk about issues of race and have a little bit of science behind this to make their points.

[00:11:22] So on my first slide, I think if you were here with me last week, you’ll remember this is a slide I showed about genes. And that we know that we often think about genetics being directly tied to genes and that these are things that are passed from parent to child.

[00:11:40] Then we often provide a lot of emphasis on the fact we talk about things it’s in our genes. And so genes are something that are very real to us and very important and provide a certain sense of our identity. But in reality, they are just pieces of DNA.

[00:12:00] So next slide, if we think about being human, the reality is that all of us as humans share the same exact genes, the only difference is that there are different variations of those genes.

[00:12:14] And so you can think of this as having a bike. But in different colors. So you see the picture there. They’re all exactly the same bike. The only difference is we get it in pink or green or blue, or you could think of any other color. But when we think about our genetics, the reality is that again, we all have the same genes. It just depends on the variety of the genes that get passed down.

[00:12:40] So if I think about what are some examples of genes that we all have. So for instance, lactase is the gene that we use when we drink milk. Some of you may be lactose intolerant. And so you have a variation of that gene that doesn’t work. But again, everybody has a lactase gene.

[00:13:00] Myosin is just a protein that’s involved in moving your muscles. And myosin basically is, it comes in different flavors, but everybody can move muscles. You know, we have muscles that we move that we don’t even know about moving, blinking your eyes. Those sorts of things, but we all have myosin genes.

[00:13:21] And insulin is a protein that we all have heard about if we know about diabetes. And insulin is important because it allows us to break down sugar. And some of us have the genes that are involved in diabetes that are related to insulin that may not function as well. But the reality is every last one of us has genes that are involved in breaking down sugar.

[00:13:45] But the variety of those genes might be different. Hence a different variation.

[00:13:51] So if we think about all of us as people, variation can make it seem like we’re very different. But the reality is that we’re all exactly the same when it comes to our genes. Well, I shouldn’t say exactly because I’m going to do a demonstration that shows that basically each of us is 99.9% the same when it comes to our genes. There is very little difference between us. And even when we talk about things like race, race itself as a social construct. It is not biological. We are all humans. We are all homo sapiens and there is no difference between the genes that any of us has, except as I said, the variation.

[00:14:36] So what I thought I would do to demonstrate this would be to do a little bit of a demonstration. So what I decided to do was take one of my favorite candies, Reese’s pieces and basically show you, I hope you guys can see this.

[00:14:51] This is a glass and I have a hundred Reese’s pieces in this glass. So, you know, Reese’s pieces they come in different shapes, different colors, but they’re exactly the same Reese’s pieces. You know, if you taste one, they all taste the same. The inside looks exactly the same. So let me show you using Reese’s pieces. How little difference there are between humans, a hundred Reese’s pieces. I’m going to take out one piece.

[00:15:20] There are now 99 left in the glass, and I’m going to try my very best to break up this little Reese’s piece into 10 little pieces. And if I break it up, I even dropped it, this is the difference between each of us. I don’t know if you can see that. That is when we think about Reese’s pieces. That is what separates each of us. Oops, I even dropped it.

[00:15:50] So that just goes to show you that there’s so little difference between any of us as humans. And if we think of ourselves as Reese’s pieces, the difference between us is not even one, it’s even a tiny bit of a Reese’s piece.

[00:16:06] So, again, I like to say to people that I realized that variation again, we put a lot of emphasis on that. But if we step back and think about the biology of it, there are very few differences between us if we look holistically. So I don’t know if this was the time for me to answer questions after that.

[00:16:27] I will put a plug in. I hope that everybody did their trait tree, even though we didn’t get to talk about it today. I hope you did your trait tree. And you found some really fun results from your trait tree. But any way maybe I can come back and visit at some point and we can talk about that.

[00:16:45] But I will now open it up for, for questions.

[00:16:49] Megan: Yeah. I also agree everyone should be doing their trait tree because it was really great way. I think you just explained something in such kid friendly terms of like how insignificant that change is in our genes and that race is such a social construct.

[00:17:07] I wonder, so we had a question coming in and then, I think it’s a really great one in terms of this. What if kids ask if race such a big deal, how can it be such a small part of our genes? Is there any additional ways to help explain that?

[00:17:26] Dr. Easter: Yeah, I think the reason it’s such a big deal is because oftentimes what we focus on when it comes to genetics are the things that we can see. So oftentimes we focus on things like skin color, hair texture, eye color. And it seems like such a big deal because our identity is tied to the way we look.

[00:17:46] We often describe people by their physical traits. And so I think the reason that race becomes such a big deal is because we have, over time, started to associate certain traits with certain people from certain backgrounds or certain ancestral backgrounds. But the reality is, if you think about it, you can find pretty much anybody from any ancestral backgrounds that share something with someone else from a different background.

[00:18:16] So I really do think that part of it has become such a big deal because it’s something that we can see. And again, that the visualization of the physical characteristics again becomes associated with our identity.

[00:18:32] And as humans we tend to like to categorize people. And one of the first things we learn as children is to categorize people oftentimes by their looks.

[00:18:42]So again, I think that’s why it’s such a big deal, because we do make it a big deal. But again, as I showed you with the Reese’s piece, it’s just such a small portion. I mean, genes are powerful and those variations can display a lot of things, but it is just incredibly small in the grand scheme of things.

[00:19:02] Megan: Thank you so much, Carla. And we will be paying of sharing again Carla’s resources, especially with the trait tree we were going to revisit today. But it’s still a great activity to do this summer.

[00:19:13] And especially in light of we’re talking right now and genetic science, being grounded in that fact despite everything that’s going on in our culture, and that has gone on in our culture. So thank you again for being here Carla, and we appreciate your time and also feel free to voice any other background information and thoughts with us as we dive into our next part of our segment today, which is our next question corner.

[00:19:42] And this question corner, as usual, has Dr. Seth Shaffer and we have Dr. Karmen Rouland as well, joining us and Mariela Puentes.

[00:19:54] And before we jump in, I actually, something that, Carla just brought up, came up also in the chat box and I’d love Karmen, it came from your initial reflection question. So I’d love to read it out. On the first day of YMCAs day camp as an eight year old, kids asked me, what are you? The question mattered, because my color defined which kids I would stand with.

[00:20:18] So as we jump into this question corner where you are going to start with asking, you know, some things that a lot of parents have been sharing with us and that we’re seeing, you know, being on the top of the mind of families right now. And it’s how can you talk with your kids, of various ages, about race, racism, racial violence? And what’s appropriate across developmental stages?

[00:20:48]Dr. Shaffer: I’ll be, if it’s okay, Karmen and Mariela, I might just jump in and, well, or Mariela, actually, you wanted to define a couple terms, is that right? Or should I maybe address, cognitive development for different stages of kids?

[00:21:03] Mariela: I think you should go ahead and go with your piece if that’s okay.

[00:21:05] And then we get into some of the other stuff.

[00:21:08] Dr. Shaffer: Happy to happy to. Alright, so I put this together, too late, actually this morning and I apologize, and I’m very thankful to everyone involved in this for making this happen. We have some really great resources here.

[00:21:22] But if you look at, so one thing I think to think about when it comes to discussions with your kids about race, or really anything from a teaching standpoint, is to have a good sense of their cognitive development. What they’re able to really understand based on development.

[00:21:38] Now, of course, there’s some variability, across, you know, within the kids, you know, different ages, but this is more generally speaking. So if you look at, you know, ages zero to 18 or 24 months, the real focus in terms of cognitive development, that milestone, if you will, is there’s a big focus on colors, shapes and senses. So you know, these basic concepts could be boiled down to like visual, spacial, experiential senses. And so a lot of what I would think about when it comes to being a parent is letting your child play with different toys.

[00:22:13] You know, they notice different colors or different shapes. That you do a lot of reflecting, like, oh yeah, you know, this shape, you know, it’s, you know, pink or brighter or this shape, you know, it’s darker, you know, and that kind of a thing.

[00:22:24] Moving on to like two to seven year olds where language really starts to develop, memory and imagination. Also some ego can kind of come up there, where the sense of, I, me, my, you know, my strengths, that kind of a thing. And so some basic concepts there in terms of cognitive development can be, you know, thinking about your child’s sense of ego so to speak or things that they attribute to what they’re good at and so forth. That you can offer different perspectives. Right.

[00:22:53] And then, you know, tapping memory reflect on an experience that your child had. And then, the other thing being, you know, use of imagination is huge. And a great way for kids to express themselves. And understanding differences and people and things, and kind of doing again more reflecting, engaging with your child on a play level, you know, with imagination.

[00:23:14] It’s a great way for kids to not only express themselves, but also, for certain concepts and ideas to be introduced and expanded upon. Once you hit seven. Seven in my field, if you will, in terms of development, it’s a huge milestone.

[00:23:29]So it’s interesting Piaget, which I got some of these ideas from in terms of cognitive development. There are other developmental psychologists out there as well, clearly. He mentioned that maybe metacognition or abstract thought can come a little bit later. Like if you look at the 11 to 18, row there. But you know, in my experience developmentally like seven years old, you can have this idea of an abstract concept.

[00:23:53] So in other words, or metacognition, so what that kind of can mean is like, you know, your child can think about something that’s not right there in front of them. Right. So it can be like, if something, they saw something on the TV or they watch something in a show. You know, or something happened to them earlier on, you know, whatever in their day to day life or something that happened you can draw upon that and bring that up into the discussion. And they can kind of think about it. And think about how they think about things. So that’s what metacognition is.

[00:24:23] So when I ask, like my son, Julian, who’s right around there, he’s six and a half, you know, about something he learned in school or things that he’s been seeing on the news and hearing about. I can ask him questions, like, you know, what do you think about what you just saw? Right. And I can reflect that. And he can think about how he thinks about things and begin to then question and challenge any kind of thoughts that he might have, or change his mind about things. But talking about it more in the abstract.

[00:24:51] Also part of judgment forming there. Things are good and bad. And I think it’s also like as part of cognitive development and helping your child see and better understand diversity and differences. But also forming those connections is to help them to draw them to the gray, if you will, that, you know, by exposing them to different perspectives.

[00:25:12]So I’ll just mention that about seven to 11, but just keeping in mind that age seven for development can be huge.

[00:25:17] And then finally, for our 11 to 18 year olds, it says, you know, hypotheses or opinions of abstract concepts in your child forms can be reaffirmed, challenged and shaped through their experiences in life.

[00:25:28] Stronger beliefs in your child can lead them to take action. And what I put here, it’s not like you can’t obviously expose your kid or have them kind of come with you. You know, if you wanted to take them on a protest, you know, or you wanted to take them to this museum or these kinds of different things to expose them, that’s wonderful.

[00:25:45] But what can be nice about, or, you know, kind of related to cognitive development in the 11 to 18 can also, it can come from them, right? They can develop their own beliefs and those can be kind of, not finalized, but like can become stronger in them. And then, you know, they can like begin to advocate for things they believe in and take action.

[00:26:04] So that’s just kind of more of the cognitive development piece if that was helpful. Just to give you a little bit of a framework.

[00:26:09] And then Mariela, did you want to, or Karmen want to chime in there?

[00:26:14] Mariela: Sure, I wanted to chime in about the definitions around like race and racism and what we mean when we say that.

[00:26:22] So like Dr. Carla Easter mentioned race is a social construct, right? It’s not based on biology. And like the definition of race really would be that we’re grouping human beings, based on a set of shared physical or social qualities. And we’re grouping them into categories based on that. But as we heard from Dr. Carla Easter, right, that’s not actually based on biology.

[00:26:45] And then when we think about racism. It’s really the belief that a particular race or group is superior or inferior because of that. And that those social or moral traits are determined by those biological characteristics.

[00:27:07] Dr. Rouland: I was just talking over here and I was on mute, so.

[00:27:11] Totally Seth and Mariela. And I think too, just kind of taking a step back and talking about identity for a moment. And, which race, you know, is a part of identity. Which is a complex topic in terms of how we all, who we are and how we see ourselves and how the world sees us.

[00:27:28]You know, folks, kids, think just along the lines of Piaget, when we think of Eric Erickson and child development and developmental psychology and the different stages of identity development. That racial identity becomes, you know, it’s something that kids are aware of very early on. They may not be aware of the differences between folks, but they are definitely, but it’s something that kids are aware of very early on. And as they grow and learn, it’s, you know, it’s important to help them process what they are, how they’re feeling, how they view themselves, how they perceive the way that others view them.

[00:28:08] And that’s why we wanted to really have this conversation today, given what’s going on in the world. The injustice, the racism, the violence, the murders of black men and black women. You know, it’s important to talk about this and hold this space. And so, maybe we should take some questions from the chat box see what folks are, what questions you have. We can try to answer those.

[00:28:33] Megan: We definitely have a lot coming in Karmen. So I think that’s perfect. And it especially goes with what you’re just saying now of kids recognize that there’s, you know, as we’re seeing in the two to seven, there’s different colors that they’re looking at and seeing. And we actually just got a question in, how do I deal with parents who don’t want their children exposed to inclusive ways of thinking, without being disrespectful? And this is from someone who works in early childhood. So about that age range of two to seven, where this recognition is already happening and it may, you know, how do we name it? How do it, how does it become, part of either the classroom or that everyday conversation we’re having with parents or with our children?

[00:29:26] Dr. Shaffer: Who’s starting out? Who’s taken that one? It’s a good question.

[00:29:31] Dr. Rouland: That’s a really good question. I think, you know, the thing that I think it goes back to, you know, and I see that we have another kind of comment about that too. How do you, you know, what is the purpose of education? Right. And what’s the purpose of early childhood and thinking about asking parents, what goals and values do they want for their kids? Right. And how do they their children to be in the world with others? Like and what values are they, do they want to teach their kids? That that’s kind of where I would go with that.

[00:30:06] I think we, you know, obviously you can’t tell someone how to raise their child, that never works well.

[00:30:11] [laughing]

[00:30:13] That never goes over well. But I think, you know, turning it, turning the question back on them and just having a real calm, real honest conversation about, you know, what really are the goals?

[00:30:25] You know, what do they want their, how do they want their child to live and flourish in the world? I think is a place to start. And then figuring out how to get there with inclusivity and speaking of equity is, could get us there.

[00:30:38] I mean, Mariela and Seth, do you have comments for that one?

[00:30:40] Mariela: Yeah. I also was going to add that if we’re talking about the early childhood sphere, right, and like Seth was mentioning that children at that age are understanding and seeing differences in people and things. And seeing that, you know, children look different than they do. Right. And seeing that that’s a difference. I think you also have to emphasize to them like values of like empathy and like inclusivity and having them see that no one’s superior to anybody else because of the color of their skin.

[00:31:13] I think that’s a great message to communicate as you’re creating a classroom community. And then also, I would say to start having conversations about why that’s a value system or like what certain, what values are important for that family. And like why, and try to build, understanding that way. And maybe you all can have like adult to adult have critical conversations together too.

[00:31:37] Dr. Shaffer: And I think it was something it’s great, I mean, dealing with really anyone who has opposing or different views from you, different values, et cetera. Values was mentioned by Karmen. You know, it can be challenging, but it also lends itself, you know, depending on your child’s age, et cetera, and keeping development in mind, but it certainly lends itself, you just would tailor it or modify maybe how you take that as a teachable moment with your child. If your child’s being exposed to a parent who can be difficult or you know, less inclusive or just kind of doesn’t share your family values. You can see it as an opportunity to process with your child.

[00:32:10] So you can say, you know, even something like, well, so-and-so’s parent, thinks or feels this way and they’re allowed to think and feel that way, but we’re also allowed to think and feel the way that we think and feel. You know, just to put, just to give one example where you acknowledge the other person, that they might have a different thought or view. But then you tie it into your own family’s values to instill those, like Karmen said.

[00:32:33] And let your child express whether it be through play, whether it be through a combination of playing words, et cetera, what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, and to validate that. And if you want to again, take it a step further to offer different perspectives. So that your child can be growing up having this sense of the importance of dialogue and discussion and acknowledgement and respect.

[00:33:00] Megan: I do want to mention that there was a reply in the chat box that, you know, as an educator it is hard to and that you can’t necessarily address these values directly with parents if they are not wanting to be inclusive. But to set your values as an educator and the parents have to decide if you are right for them.

[00:33:20] And I know that there is a lot of places for educators in their curriculum to add in really substantial text, even in pre-K that acknowledge inclusivity. And like the first book that comes to my mind is Jacqueline Woodson, so like the Day You Begin. Which is all about valuing experiences of every single child and learning that even as a pre-K student. But that was it.

[00:33:43] Thank you guys so much too and continuing to ask questions and reply to what we’re saying. Cause this is a conversation.

[00:33:50] And I want to ask another question that actually came in, that kind of is dealing too with when you’re mentioning, like how parents are talking to their kids right now about everything, about values, but also about what is maybe a virtual activity to help them cope with what’s happening. To become aware and to prevent and to take action. This participant specifically is a girl scout troop leader with 15, 11 year olds. So is a parent, but also a troop leader and wondering what type of thing can they do to help that group of children during this?

[00:34:33]Mariela: I think the first thing I would mention is yes, it’s important to have conversations about race and about current events now, but it’s an important conversation to have with children all the time and to unpack situations with them all the time. And sometimes it might be easier to start with like a children’s book that comes across like a particular theme that you’re looking for.

[00:34:54]And help anchor your own thinking or your own conversation with them. And can be a place to start.

[00:35:01] Dr. Rouland: And I’ll say I’m also, high fellow Girl Scout troop leader, I’m a Brownie troop leader. our girls are in the seven and eight year old range. One of the things that we’ve, that we started was a journey, and I know that there’s journeys at that 11 year old age too, but a journey called a World of Girls.

[00:35:21] And that comes with, as Mariela was just pointing out, a lot of stories about girls and children from other countries and other cultures. And that really helps get the conversation going. So that, one girls are, you know, in this case, Girl Scouts are becoming aware of other cultures and how other cultures do things. The types of games that are played in other cultures. And, so many other things I don’t want to belabor the point.

[00:35:48] So I think, you know, in Girl Scouts, they are really good, I think these days, I mean, I was a Brownie a long time ago, but these days they’re very good about developing resources and kind of programs and content. And content that is really around equity and diversity, because, and then the leadership, right? So then challenging the girls, the Brownies, or the Girl Scouts to come up with ways to be leaders in their communities by doing a take action project.

[00:36:15] So around this particular issue with, around, you know, racism and hate and all of that. I mean, a number of things come to mind, you know, that we could be doing with our fellow with youth in the community, not just Girl Scouts, but one is helping kids understand, you know, the election process and how you research different, people who are, political candidates. People running for office locally, you know, state office, federally, all of that. And becoming very, you know, civic minded, if you will. And doing activities around that. Donations, you know, doing drives for the homeless. I think all of these go back to developing values where you help your fellow man, and that we all make our world go round. Right.

[00:37:00] And so, I mean, I know that’s kind of off the topic of race, but it’s about community and building community, which is what this is all about? Right. And so we talked about values earlier. We talked about creating safe spaces and that’s exactly with, you know, bringing it back to the Girl Scouts for a moment, that’s exactly what some of those journeys of Scouts is about.

[00:37:22] So, I would think hopefully Monica, you can go and look at some of the things on the Girl Scout website. [chuckles] We can talk offline if you want. I don’t want to make this about Girl Scouts, you know.

[00:37:34] But you know, to your question is there’s lots out there. I think it’s a matter of figuring out how to do these things virtually now, right? Because we’re not having troop meetings, in person because of everything happening with COVID-19. So I’ll, I’ll put a pin in that right now. I’ll stop.

[00:37:48] Dr. Shaffer: I mean Karmen, one thing that you said, leads me to think about this, the idea of social modeling. Social modeling is huge, whatever age the child is, even as adults, you know, we’re observing other people and, you know, learning through others as well. So just from that perspective of being a Girl Scout troop leader, or, you know, just a parent, you know, et cetera, just being a caregiver or a mentor that kids are seeing a lot.

[00:38:17] Like we don’t really fully know what kids see in here, or I should put it differently. Sorry, give me another chance. What we think kids are seeing and hearing is a fraction of what they’re seeing and hearing. They know way more than we will ever know. So you’re always on. You know, as a troop leader, as a parent, your kids are always observing you.

[00:38:36] And so just to keep in mind that you can be directly doing, you know, teachable moments with your kid and having discussions and these things are all wonderful and great. But the values I think in kids and human beings really get instilled largely through what they see and hear growing up, you know, through all those years in the household. Or it’s a big factor. I’m going to share going back to that specific question, here’s one tool I’m going to post in the chat.

[00:39:01]It’s like a spinny wheel. So it lends itself well to that virtual format. I just posted it to everyone. And you could like tailor it so it might be, you could use this wheel in a variety of ways. And it’s interactive, you know, you can push the button and click the wheel, but you can add in the different things that the wheel lands on.

[00:39:18] So you could put in a question there. You can put in, you know, related to certain topics. You can put in a question with certain problems, you know, to tap coping skills, or what would you do here? Or pose like what if questions in there. But that was just one thing I thought I would share just given the virtual format there, from that question.

[00:39:36]Mariela: I would also add that related to this concept of social modeling, right, and that children see everything. I would add that you should challenge yourself to impact situations with children. So there is an article that I included on the resources about, this piece called “From Christian Cooper to George Floyd, A Letter to White Parents”. But it can really be used for all kinds of parents. Right.

[00:39:59] And it poses like very good questions and help you to think about everyday situations. And how children are seeing people who are different than them modeled in their sort of like environment. Right? So like one of the questions is do black people exist in the life of your family? And if so, what roles do they play? Are those roles only in service to you? Or are they genuine friendships? And is this the perception of the black person as well?

[00:40:26] Another question is how are your children’s black peers treated by the administration or teachers at the school? And it challenges, you right, as a parent to think about how you’re countering those bias messages, about who black children are, their intelligence, their behavior, and whatever messages they’re getting at school as well.

[00:40:48] Megan: Yeah, that actually kind of plays into a question that we just got from a participant. And I’m gonna read a little bit from her comment as well as the question, but it goes to what you’re saying, Mariela.

[00:41:01] So I’d also add that educating students on inclusive ways of thinking doesn’t mean that the child must adopt the ideas being taught. Being educated is about learning different ideas. Critically interrogating them and then deciding independently what your own beliefs and opinions are. Good schooling educates, not indoctrinates. So Karmen, Seth, Mariela. What are your thoughts about telling kids about race versus teaching them to think for themselves?

[00:41:36] Dr. Shaffer: Take the lead Karmen or Mariela.

[00:41:43] Dr. Rouland: Well, I think it’s a both and, right? I think you, you know, we are teaching kids about race and as Dr. Easter, you know, shared with us, it’s a social construct that’s made up and we’ve assigned and ascribe meaning to different races for. I mean, that’s a whole different conversation, I guess, but, you know, in terms of systemic racism and the structures and policies that were put in place in terms of who could be a citizen.

[00:42:09] I think kids have to be aware and know that, right. We have, we do have to have those conversations. And I think to the point about, I think we do that and then we teach them the ways that think for themselves. Arm them with facts, right. Arm them with the history. Take them to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

[00:42:28] Let them see what has happened and not just for black kids, but all kids. Right. Take them there, let them see the history of our country, in that museum that was done beautifully, the museum. You know, do that and then let them think for themselves. I don’t think it’s a hide the history and, and kind of minimize its impact on the world that we see today.

[00:42:52] I think that’s, we have to show them and help break down those silos and those walls of folks not wanting to have the difficult conversations. And the only way to do that is by educating ourselves as the comment said, educate, not indoctrinate.

[00:43:09] Dr. Shaffer: Right. And building off that, when you think about elementary school aged children, I think a good guideline as being a caregiver, a parent, when it comes to a lot of these big, really important concepts that can be hard to grasp is, when your child comes with a question, you answer it. Because as parents, we can come, our minds are going to be thinking on a very different level than our kids, right.

[00:43:31] And our minds can go in a hundred different directions about where we want to take it. But I think it’s great and good modeling too, and empowering for your child to answer his or her specific question as they come up, kind of a thing in elementary school age. Middle, high school then you can start to pose questions, like open questions.

[00:43:48] Who, what, when, where why’s. And see where that goes with your kid. You know, if you know that they had just a recent experience in school or something.

[00:43:55] I’ll share one. My mother reminded me of this the other day. She was like, I remember, I think I was maybe in middle school and she was like, you came home, you were at a, you went to a store or something like a corner stores type place or a grocery store, a mini grocery store or something, get a Gatorade or whatever. And I was with two of my friends, who are African American friends. And one of them was white. So I was with three other, three other boys and I came back and I told my mom, like I was almost, I was like shocked. Because the shopkeeper, the eyes was on my two friends who are African American and treated them extremely different than they did me. And it was a very real, raw experience for me to have gone through and what my mom and father, they both did a great job of was giving me the space to process that and talk about it. So it was a dialogue and a conversation.

[00:44:47] So taking experience that your child has and then bringing it into a conversation and sharing different perspectives on it, what, how did, what did you think when that happened? How did that make you feel? What do you think you want to do maybe next time you’re with friends? Or how do you think they might’ve felt? Or one, or, you know, you break down your friends and individuals, how do you think so and so felt? How do you think they feel? You know, that kind of a thing.

[00:45:09] So I just wanted to offer that from a middle school age, high school age. But really all ages take their experience and let that be kind of the springboard into a discussion.

[00:45:21] Mariela: I also want to add on to what Karmen said about, teaching them the history. Right. I think you also have to be mindful of like whose history is being taught and in school.

[00:45:31]Cause I grew up in a predominantly Mexican community. But I never learned anything about people who look like me. And it wasn’t until I got to high school that I came across this book called “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, right. And that’s when I started sort of developing my own understanding of the history and systemic racism. And that, you know, Mexicans were not inferior to other races. Right.

[00:45:54] So I think it’s both teaching students about the history and also helping them make sense, and think critically about what they consume.

[00:46:02] Dr. Rouland: And I think we have to be honest with ourselves, right. Even as adults, we’re still learning, you know. And trying to make sense of the world and trying to make connections with things. You know, there was a book and I think I tell everybody this, so the, the, my colleagues are probably like, okay, that’s enough Karmen, “The Color of Law” like it’s a book about redlining and the housing industry, or, you know, housing field and how for the longest time, black folks could not buy homes in certain areas.

[00:46:31]And I’m just reading this book and it’s like literally lining out the policies about the structures and policies and things, institutions that have been put in place to separate and divide. And as an adult, like I’m just starting to like really fully recognize and learn just how deep hate and, like this, these biased ideas have penetrated like our society.

[00:46:57] Right. So I’m just saying that to say, I think we have to give ourselves a break. As adults too, and just continue to learn, continue to have these conversations and not s away from them.

[00:47:09] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. May I just add a comment about coping, children and emotion? I think, I’m sure we’re going to get into this more next week, so everyone, please come join us again. And maybe…

[00:47:20] Dr. Rouland: And bring a friend.

[00:47:20]Dr. Shaffer: Yeah. Bring a friend. And Karmen you can even plug, who’s going to be joining us, another child psychologist, but I wanted to say, keep your kids close right now. You know, everyone’s having very strong emotions or I can’t speak for everyone. I’m sorry. A lot of people across the country, across the world are having strong emotions and feelings. And it’s okay to express them.

[00:47:42]And it’s good for your kids to feel safe and comforted, both in terms of your nurturance, in terms of your words, it’s okay to show tears. It’s okay to show anger and, you know, in appropriate or okay ways, you know, non-harmful ways.

[00:47:56] But then it’s also good for your kids to feel safe and nurtured, and just, you know, keeping kids close. That’s a, that’s a really important way to help us get through this, is for us to feel like for as a child, for you to feel like you’re not alone. You know, and to feel like you’re supported and to feel like you have someone who can hug you, who can kiss you. Who can tell you that, you know, we will get through this and things will be okay, but also acknowledge that there are some, a lot of things happening right now across the country.

[00:48:22] I just wanted to add that little thing about coping and staying close. But yeah, Karmen so whose coming. Oh, sorry, Megan.

[00:48:29] Megan: Oh, well, I did, I did actually want to go off to kind of one thing that Karmen was just bringing up about this like concept of hate. Cause we had a question coming in about it and actually a couple of comments that kind of tied in and questions around it.

[00:48:43]So I’m going to read about like two or three thoughts. So, cause it’s, you know, lots of people are sharing this. But kind of like how do you deal with that concept of hate? After, you know, hearing a young black child ask, like, why do they hate me? And similarly thinking, you know, even in working with children ages two months to five years and, you know, thinking it starts there, like that this hate, and maybe these beliefs that come up, their brain is still accepting.

[00:49:12]But how do, how do kids start to learn about race and how can parents in that realm of like this hate and get ahead of it, get ahead of toxic messaging and shaping their anti-racist worldview?

[00:49:28] So I know there’s a lot there and this will probably be one of the last questions, comments that we take. But we’ll also roll over all of the questions that we have here to next week as well. But I kind of wanted to touch on that because as well, another comment came in just saying, they’re hearing a lot of different things from different people, including, you know, a president, including a teacher, including a neighbor around what, you know, how do we address these messaging and how soon, and how does it relate to this concept of hate in general?

[00:50:06] Dr. Shaffer: Well, this again, Karmen, were you going to say something, you can go…

[00:50:10] Dr. Rouland: I was about to say, cause I went, do you want to go Mariela or Seth?

[00:50:15] [laughs]

[00:50:15] Dr. Shaffer: Well, I mean one thing that spoke to me about that is from like a social learning standpoint. We talked a lot about social learning through that lens, you know, in the field of social psychology, psychology. One idea or one theory, if you will, it depends on who you ask or talk to, it can be that hate is taught.

[00:50:37] And so, it seems, you know, from a two to five year old standpoint, you know, if your child comes to you with something like an experience like that, which is potentially like really emotional and off putting and just can make you really sad or angry or both. To meet your child where he or she is at and acknowledge again, what they’re thinking and feeling and what the experience was for them.

[00:51:02] But then also try to, as part of that interaction with them shift to re-instilling your own family values. Right? And I go back to Carla, right? So a fun activity. It’s something that’s interactive and fun. Like she did what the Reese’s thing. And if you did that with your even two to five year old, two to five year old, two’s not going to understand like, the mathematics of it, but the visual of it is there. They can touch it. They can feel it. They can point out different colors.

[00:51:26] And once you’re in four or five, they might be able to understand that like small, big. Right, and those kinds of relationships. And you could remind them of that experiment that you did, you know, and that if this person said that to you or, you know, hatred was expressed, just know that I love you and just know that your friends, so and so loves you and just know that this person loves you. And as a family, if this is your family’s value, we’re all about loving and including others and respecting others. We’re not about hate.

[00:51:57] But then as an adult, if you need to, you know, advocate or stand up for your kid. Do it. Because the adults need to kind of be adults too. Right? I mean, Karmen, Mariela did you want to add something?

[00:52:10] Dr. Rouland: No, I was going to say, I mean, the question about, you know, why do they hate me? You know, it’s such a, it tugs at your heartstrings. Right. And it’s okay to just like, with my kids, like, you know, we walked through the African American Museum, the Smithsonian, the new one, and going through that, it’s like, why, why would they, why would, why would we not be able to sit at the lunch counters?

[00:52:30] Why would we, you know, like going through all these, why would we have to sit at the back of the bus? And, you know, why would they do this? You know, and you don’t, I don’t have an answer. I don’t, I don’t know the why. And just having, being honest about that, but what you said Seth, just filling them with love. And hope.

[00:52:49] You know, I keep thinking of this thing about hope, because we have to believe one day that the world would be a better place. Else why are we doing the work that we’re doing? You know what I mean?

[00:52:59] So Mariela, I don’t know if you have anything to add.

[00:53:01] Mariela: Yeah, I would also add that so whenever I think children are processing something that like feels really like strong to them or like something like hate and somebody else hating them. I like to take the very sort of like, rational and direct approach and say, like, well, like you can’t control what other people say. Right? You can only control how you respond to it.

[00:53:21] So like, let’s think about ways to help you feel better and find ways or strategies of like uplifting them or telling them all the things out there that they’re really great at. And somehow creating more protective factors for them so that they know that it’s not about them.

[00:53:38] And that is somebody else just not being able to handle that or regulate that part of their emotions.

[00:53:43] Dr. Shaffer: Yeah.

[00:53:45] Dr. Rouland: Yeah.

[00:53:45] Dr. Shaffer: That two to five age though is really tough because you want to try to help your child. I think first and foremost, for two to five, it’s like go for the emotion that they’re feeling, to help them feel like that emotion can come out in your home. It’s safe. And you connect emotion with situation, something that happened.

[00:54:07] So from a developmental perspective, that connection is really important. I’m all about talking up to kids too. Right? So it’s okay then to take the conversation in the direction of, you know, what Mariela said, you know, in Karmen shared as well. Even if your child might not fully grasp it, but make sure for the two to five, you connect the feeling with the situation. And give them a close hug and spread that love to them.

[00:54:32]Maybe like six, seven years old just to, that’s I’ve worked with a population a lot. So I just want to mention one thing about that. That, you know, to help kids think about certain situations, not just that question, I’m kind of expanding on that. It’s a really, it does tug at your heartstrings, that question. You know, but kids, something that can be relatable to them also is in the context of play.

[00:54:57] And that, you know, when something, a comment is made like, I hate you. To try to, and this is a teachable moment to try and stretch your child’s brain. Is that maybe this person hated what you did. Maybe this person hated that you made the basketball shot or you made that you kick the soccer ball and the goal, or you drew the cool picture and they’re jealous, you know, to offer those different perspectives.

[00:55:19] I think perspective taking when it comes to social skills in general, and in this context, of course too is important.

[00:55:28] Megan: Thank you all so much for sharing and up on the screen is a resources guide that Mariela put together, and that will be available for you all post-call she did mention the Christian Cooper letter today.

[00:55:44] So I encourage you all to use those. And one message just before we kind of let everyone know what’s coming up and wrap up for the day is a thought from participant Camille as parents, “our feelings will be passed to our children. We need to think deeply about the messages we are sending.”

[00:56:07] So, thank you all again for your questions.

[00:56:09] And we will be continuing to talk and think about those questions in our next week’s family room with Christine Platt. Who’s an author and advocate. And then Karmen also is, we are bringing someone into the question corner, correct?

[00:56:26] Dr. Rouland: Right. So, and I just posted a resource, an interview with Dr. Kristen Carothers. She is a child psychologist, and she’s going to join us next week, along with Dr. Seth Shaffer here to continue the conversation about how do you have developmentally appropriate conversations with kids.

[00:56:44] So please join us next week. Bring a friend, bring a couple of friends. So we can continue the conversation and bring your questions. And we’ll try to respond to the questions that we didn’t get to today.

[00:56:55] And check on her, her video there, her interview on teenmag.com.

[00:56:59] Megan: Absolutely. Thank you all for being here. Thank you. Carla, Mariella, Dr. Shaffer, Karmen. Don’t forget to take all of you, the participants for being here and being so open and vulnerable with your thoughts and continue to send them in via the newsletter to us, on Facebook.

[00:57:18] And we look forward to, again, chatting about this more and we would love for any feedback on the survey, which is linked up above. And Karmen mentioned at the beginning of this, that George Floyd’s Memorial was happening today and it’s ongoing. So check that out. That should be up on YouTube.

[00:57:38] And if you need any links, let us know but again thank you for everything today. And we look forward to seeing you next week.

[00:57:48] Dr. Shaffer: Bye everyone. See you guys next week.

[00:57:51] Dr. Rouland: Thank you everyone for joining us.

[00:57:54] Mariela: Bye everyone. Thank you.

 

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