Doctor Gives Advice On How To Talk To Kids About Racial Injustice, COVID-19

Lynda Lopez
June 11, 2020 - 6:24 pm
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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — After news of the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests and new conversations about racial injustices, many parents are wondering how to address the issues with their children. 

    While some children have fully embraced activism and have even marched in the protests demanding for police reforms and an end to racial injustices, others have remained more sheltered. 

    Though, doctors say children are aware of what’s happening in the world and say the key is helping them to process the issues in an emotionally healthy way. 

    Dr. Abigail Gewritz, author of “When The World Feels Like A Scary Place: Essential Conversations For Anxious Parents and Worried Kids,” book teaches emotion coaching, which she says is a vital skill for making children feel safe.

    “Emotion coaching, the process by which we teach kids that emotions are important. What we know is that in households where kids learn that their emotions are important and should be paid attention to and valid, kids are less likely to be dealing with anxiety and depression,” Dr. Gewritz explains.

    Her first tip to parents on how to help children deal with anxiety and stressful situations is to be honest about their own anxieties.

    “You can’t have an emotional conversation, if you, the parent, are so caught up in your own emotions. You can, but you won’t be able to listen to your child because you won’t be present, because you’ll be caught up in your own worries. And then what happens when we have those conversations but we’re not really present, we don’t really listen to our kids and as a result, they can end up feeling dismissed or you know, this conversation was really for show and nothing else. If we’re feeling worried, scared, anxious and sometimes angry, imagine how much more so our kids are feeling because they see us, and they’re pretty good at learning from us and we can’t pull a wool over their eyes. Once we’ve had the opportunity to get a handle on our own emotions, we’ll be in a good place to listen to them and follow their lead,” the doctor said.

    After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we have entered a new place when it comes to having conversations about race. There are some parents who don’t know when to speak to their child about race, what age for example, or how to speak to them about it. 

    Dr. Gewritz says her advice is the younger the better,

    “I want to say right off that bat that I have not walked the shoes of an African American person. I am incredibly grateful that in the book, because I do touch on some of these issues in the book, my dear colleague, valued colleague, doctor and friend, Dr. Bravada Garrett-Akinsanya, really guided me through some of those conversations,” she says. “And Dr. Garrett-Akinsanya also provided some mini conversations to have about equity versus equality, about privilege, about prejudice and bias, unconscious bias, for which I am really grateful.” 

    Gewritz adds: “I think what we know from the research is that you can have these conversations young. The younger you start these conversations, the easier it will likely be.”

    Her website, abigailgewirtz.com, has two sample conversations to have with kids, one about coronavirus and one about race and racial justice.

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