by Hannah Nelson – Associate Pastor – Kids and Families
To All the Parents Out There…
(and Grandparents, and Guardians, and Caregivers)
Have You Talked With Your Children About Racism?
I’ll take a wild guess and assume that you never thought that in your lifetime you would have added “experienced a worldwide pandemic “to your list of accomplishments. Eighteen months ago, you were probably helping your kids with homework, making holiday plans, and wishing for warmer weather. But here we are. And a LOT has transpired since we hit the year 2020, including massive wildfires, and violent responses to race relations. I don’t need to make an exhaustive list here…the internet has already done a great job of that…but I do want to reflect on the problem of racism that is still so prevalent and has been highlighted throughout the last year.
As a mom I have felt the pressure to not only process my own reactions and emotions throughout the last year, but I have also been acutely aware of how impactful it has (and continues to be) on my children. To be completely honest, I hit some low points at times. I was angry, worried, hurt, confused, and more. I wanted the year to be over and to be able to “go back to normal”. I didn’t like that my kids were isolated from their friends and the healthy socialization of gathering together. I didn’t like feeling controlled by state government decisions (whether I thought they were right or wrong). I hated the fact (and still do) that racism was and is so blatantly alive in our country. I cried over the violence that resulted. All these feelings were MY emotions and reactions, and as a mom I also was carrying the weight of the emotions and reactions of my children.
I knew that I had to be wise with how I dealt with my feelings. Kids take on a lot from the close adults in their lives. They are observant, watchful, and impressionable. I knew that my influence over them during this time would be crucial. Helping them to process in a healthy way was more important than seeking to have my own feelings justified. We talked a lot about racism. We talked about abuse of authority and power. We talked about the expectations we have and the judgements we make. We talked about God’s Word and what that means for us as Christ followers. We talked about emotions. We talked about actions.
Parents, if you haven’t yet had any conversations about racism and injustice, this is the time to start! We can’t ignore what is happening and we can’t just hope that someone else will take care of it. If we don’t talk with our kids how can we expect that they will learn how to treat others? If we don’t teach them the Truth of God’s Word how will they know that all people are created in the image of God, by one Creator? If we don’t give our kids tools to make good decisions how will they react when injustice happens in front of them? If we don’t, who or what will teach them?
A good place to start is with the verses below. Conversations will be different depending on the ages of your children. A four-year-old might ask, “Why is their skin a different color?” A ten-year-old might ask why they heard a report on the news about police shooting a black man or woman. You need to be ready and willing to have a conversation! If we ignore the problem then we contribute to it’s persistence. If you are unsure of how to talk with your kids about racism, that’s ok! Ask for help. There are pastors, church leaders, teachers, and other wonderful people who can help you.
I’ll leave you with this real story from my own life. A couple of weeks ago I was driving home, with my mom and 4th grade daughter in the car. As we turned onto a main street we saw the dust kick up on the shoulder of the road, as a car had just crashed. Without hesitating I pulled over directly behind another truck that had seen the accident, and turned on my hazard lights. The couple in that truck was immediately on the phone with the police so I ran over to the wrecked vehicle. It had come to a stop in the ditch and was laying at a forty-five-degree angle. Since it was dark I couldn’t see inside so I opened the car door to find a young mom and her four-year-old daughter. The mom was very dazed, and her daughter was crying and screaming because she was so scared. I told the mom my name and that I was there to help them. I asked her if I could help her daughter get out of her car seat and then help her as well. She agreed and within minutes I had helped them both get safely out of the car. The police and emergency services showed up shortly after and I stayed holding the shoeless little girl for nearly 45 minutes until her father arrived and could take her (the mother was being examined by the paramedics).
The next day I was reflecting on the accident with my daughter, who was thankfully able to wait in our car with her grandma while I helped. She had asked me some questions related to the current shootings that had involved black men and white police officers. So, I took the opportunity to share with her how God views humans as His creation, and how we should care for others no matter what. And we talked about the mom and daughter that had been in the car accident. It turned out that they were from Afghanistan and had just been living in the United States for a few years. I said to my daughter, “Did I know who I was going to find when I opened the car door? Did I know if it was going to be a man or a woman, or an older person or a teenager? Did I know what color their skin would be?” And the answer to all those questions was of course “No”. And it didn’t matter! I told my daughter that no matter who had been in that car, and no matter what color their skin was, they were precious human beings, created and loved by God. It was my job to help them as best as I could. I said that my hope for her is this: if she ever comes across someone in need, she would do her best to help as safely as she could, because that is what Jesus would want her to do.
What lessons can you teach your children? How can you help them process their questions or their emotions? Take the opportunity to look in the Bible and see what God says.
So, God created human beings in his own image.
“In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. Genesis 1:27
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Philippians 2:3-5
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. James 2:8-9