For several weeks, the Russian/Ukraine conflict has consumed reports on the news and conversations world-wide. Some of those listening and watching are children/young people. Explaining the situation to children is not an easy task for any parent; however, Black parents explaining the Russian/Ukraine conflict have to talk about more than just war.
In addition to talking about the war with children, Black parents also have to discuss the racism African immigrants have faced just on the basis of their skin color.
“Right now, in Ukraine, Black families, immigrants from the African diaspora and other people of color—mothers, children, and students are not only facing challenges to evacuate a deadly warzone but are being pushed from trains and beaten by police officers,” the NAACP wrote in an official statement. “These callous acts are atrocious and reprehensible. As the world comes to the aid of the Ukraine and nations support the resettlement of people fleeing the nation, every individual must be treated with dignity and humanity.”
Dr. Raquel Martin, Ph.D., a psychologist, researcher, and writer who explores mental health, race-based stress, and racial socialization, said in an extensive interview with Parents.com that the concurrent tragedies of the invasion of Ukraine and the mistreatment of African immigrants is an essential opportunity for parents to introduce their children to the duality of the world.
“Teach your children that nothing is black or white in this world, we are humans, not robots, so we live in a state of gray. An event can be damaging on different levels for different people involved,” says Dr. Martin.
She continued, “Let the children know that you can have compassion for the harm that is being done because no one will walk away from these critical events in history unscathed.”
Dr. Martin goes on in her interview to say that this is also an opportunity for Black parents to explain the role of bias in the treatment of Black people can extend globally. Additionally, parents can let children know that the tragedy and injustice of war are layered. Ukrainians’ status as victims doesn’t negate the harm experienced by Black and other non-Ukrainian immigrants who are attempting to flee. Dr. Martin wants parents to understand that teaching children these things can be complicated but it is essential conversation to have.
According to nine.com.au, here are additional things to keep in mind when you are talking about the Russian/Ukraine conflict with your children.
1. Make sure to monitor what they are watching on television. Too many of the vivid news images may be overwhelming, disturbing, cause anxiety and fear. Even if you want to be informed as to what is going on, turn the television to some family-friendly programming, giving everyone a break.
2. Be open to questions. Being open to their questions lets you know what is going on in their minds and gives you the opportunity to discuss it with them. Make sure to put things into context, but most of all, be honest.
3. Validate their feelings while stressing safety. Make sure that you let them know that they are safe and that you will go to the ends of the earth to make it so.
4. Help them take action. Some children may feel like they need to “do something.” Donate money, collect clothing items, etc. for those abroad. Make sure that they feel like they are a part of the solution.
5. Lastly, remind them that it is okay to still be a kid. Reinforce that although it is important to help others, it is equally as important to take care of themselves. We have all been through a lot within these past two years, there in nothing wrong with taking care of your and their mental health first and foremost.