Archive of ‘Children’ category

Talking to Your Young Children About Race: 5 Ideas to Help White Parents Start the Conversation

My 5 year old has had a lot of observations and questions about race lately. Even though I try to shield her from the news (as I don’t think the news is appropriate for 5 year olds, generally-speaking), some racial differences are obvious and there are many questions a curious and observant child comes up with. On our neighborhood run today, she says, “Mommy, what do those signs mean….’Black Lives Matter”? As a parent, I start to clam up a little – like how do I appropriately answer that question without providing a comprehensive history lesson? Am I the right person to answer this? Am I going to say the wrong thing? These types of questions may raise feelings of discomfort for parents and lead them to gloss right over the question or change the subject to avoid the uneasiness. PLEASE don’t do this!!! Silence is not the answer. If we as parents are unable to respond to these questions, then who can? The news? A fellow 5 year old friend? A crotchety extended family member? No, I will not let someone else be the first to answer this for my child! This is our job as parents and our opportunity as human beings to model for our children how people ought to treat and respect one another. It is our opportunity to instill the values of kindness, equality, respect and awareness of similarities and differences. It is our chance to encourage our children to get comfortable asking questions, challenging norms, and for us to nurture cultural curiosity, sensitivity and openness. 

So, what are some ways we can have these essential conversations with our young children? Here are 5 ideas to get you started. 

Don’t Be Silent!

No, you don’t have to pull up a YouTube video of police brutality, but you don’t have to wait for them to ask either. Kids are not color blind and racial bias can be internalized for children as young as 2-4! Don’t be afraid to talk to them about skin color and why some people’s skin is darker than others (melanin). Talk about why it is good that all people are different and celebrate this! And definitely don’t shy away from a question if they ask you directly. You are their best and most influential teacher!!!  

Also, IT IS OKAY if you stumbled on some answers. If upon reflection and/or reading up on the subject, if you feel you could have said something better or differently, bring it back up with them. Children are WAY more receptive to repair than we realize and also WAY quicker to pick up on fear or discomfort than we know. Being silent or deflecting their questions could send them the message that it’s not a topic that is okay to discuss, and THAT is actually the more harmful outcome.  

Keep Your Answers as Concise as Possible

These are not topics of simplicity and quite the opposite, but the attention span of a preschooler is short! You could lose them if you give too much information.  If you are unsure of where to start, you can begin with teaching compassion, equality and inclusion of others that are different. You can later bring in more of the historical background information. 

Be Ready for Some Confusion; This is to be Expected

For example, preschoolers tend to learn about police and first responders as “good” people in our world. So, naturally, the question arises, “But Mama, I thought police offers are supposed to help people?” Kids want things to be easily categorized – good vs bad, wrong vs right, no grey areas. Their brains are wired to see the world with this dichotomy and developmentally, they won’t fully be able to comprehend that middle area for quite some time. But, you can prepare them so that when they are confronted with the grey it is not the first time they’re exposed to a new or different perspective.  You can say, “Well sweetheart, yes many police officers are good, but there are also many police officers that have used their power in bad ways. That is not okay and we want to change that.” 

Expose Your Children to People of Different Races in your Community

Attend an event put on by a local social justice organization, or donate/volunteer for their cause and talk to you children about it if they are too young to join you. Visit a museumThe George Washington Carver Museum (which is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns), is a great place to visit as its goal is to “create a space where the global contributions of all Black people are celebrated.” In the meantime, there is some virtual content on their website to explore. You could also visit the Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural Historic District that “comprises six square miles of East Austin, home to numerous sites of significance featuring landmarks of Black architecture and design, historic cemeteries, sites of slavery and emancipation, churches and more.” Make a point to support black-owned local businesses. See a list of black-owned businesses in Austin here. 

Read Books Together that Include People of all Different Races

…and with nonwhite people as heroes and protagonists. Find movies, games and apps with diverse characters. Here are a few books that that are age appropriate for young children: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Saturday by Oge Mora and They Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. Please consider visiting Black Pearl Books, an online black-owned bookstore based in Austin, Texas. Their website has an amazing list of books to help kids understand racism and diversity. Check it out! 

Talking about race with our children will only be an initial step. To raise a generation of culturally competent people, we will have to actively take steps to model anti-racism using our voices, attitudes, actions and behaviors. Ok, now go start the conversation. You can do this!!! 

By: Brooklie Benson Gonzales, LPC-Intern
Under supervision of Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S


Five Activities to do at Home with Children: Quarantine Edition

As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but to reflect on how much has changed in the past month.  The roles we play, our social connection and sense of community, our work, and so much more. 

Navigating through this time with kids can be hard; they have had massive shifts in their lives. Parents have had to expand their role to fill that of teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and many others.  Here are five activities that can be used at home (or in nature close to home) to help your children process big feelings in relation to this chaotic time and promote self-regulation skills. 

Emotions Charades 

This is a fun game to play with kiddos to promote mindfulness of the body.  Mindfulness is pulling ourselves into the present moment. When explaining to children use simple, succinct definitions such as “mindfulness is noticing what is happening right now.”  Mindfulness practices can help improve focus and concentration, as well as increase self-regulation skills.  

In emotions charades, either purchase cards with faces depicting different emotions (these are great: https://www.playtherapywithcarmen.com/collections/focus-on-feelings/products/flash-cards-with-words-focus-on-feelings© ) or create your own cards with your children using art supplies.  Create faces that show anger, frustration, sadness, happiness and any emotion you can identify together!  Shuffle the cards and place them face down. One player then selects a card. The player will not only use their face, but their entire body, to act out the emotion silently to other player, who is trying to guess what it is.  

This game helps create awareness of how the body reacts to different emotions.  You can even ask questions to further process the emotion. For example, if your child is acting out fear, you can ask them questions like “what helps you to feel safe? What does safety feel/look like to you?” 

Yoga/Animal Yoga

Yoga practices have been shown to help children with mind-body awareness, self-regulation, improved self-esteem and social-emotional learning (just to name a few!).  Cosmic Kids Yoga has an entire YouTube channel with tons of great videos geared towards children of all ages and interests (including Frozen, Pokemon and Harry Potter!).  You can access it here: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

If videos aren’t your thing, here is a link to free animal yoga pose cards: https://wyqualitycounts.org/animal-yoga-for-kids/

Aromatherapy Playdoh

According to recent research, repetitive, rhythmic movement (think rocking, swinging or kneading playdoh) and sensory experiences calm the part of our brain that signals danger.  Creating aromatherapy playdoh together is a great way to integrate both movement and sensory input to promote feelings of relaxation.  

Recipe: https://www.healthline.com/health/diy-aromatherapy-playdough-for-stress – 7

You can also make multiple batches with different smells! 

  • Lavender can help to promote relaxation and sleep
  • Citrus scents energize
  • Pine can reduce stress
  • Peppermint can improve focus/concentration (be cautious with peppermint-since it is a stronger scent, I would reduce the amount needed by half)

Nature Mindfulness Activity

As mentioned before, mindfulness is anchoring ourselves to the present moment.   The Child Mind Institute shares that spending time in nature benefits children by building confidence, promoting creativity, and reducing stress.  This activity combines both nature and mindfulness to create a sensory experience that can promote regulation and tranquility. 

This nature mindfulness activity does not require any materials, just you, your child and thirty uninterrupted minutes outside in nature!  Walk through a park, yard, greenbelt or any other natural landscape and identify: 

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can hear
  • Three things you can feel
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste (for safety considerations, I recommend only pointing out something you can eat or bring rosemary/mint or any other safe herb from home with you to reduce risk of eating something harmful!

If your child needs a visual, you can print out a scavenger hunt sheet with things for them to find in nature.  Here are some great resources: 

Safe Place Guided Imagery and Art Project

This is a confusing time for everyone, including children.  Having strong feelings of fear, sadness and anger are understandable and to be expected! This activity helps children to imagine a safe place they can visualize when they begin to feel scared.  

Start by reading or playing a safe place guided imagery script, like one of these: 

Following the guided imagery set out art supplies (whatever you have at home-markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, paper).  Invite your child to create their safe place on paper. They can draw a literal picture of it or create an abstract piece utilizing color/shapes to express how safety feels to them.  Allow them to choose a meaningful place to keep their piece. If they do not wish to share their safe place, that is totally ok!  

Art is a useful tool to express other emotions as well.  It can provide words and language around emotion that is difficult to verbalize out loud.   Children can use color and shapes to show and externalize how big feelings including fear, anxiety, sadness and joy feel to them.  

Perhaps the most important tool to remember during this time is relationship.  Connection and attachment are healing in themselves. In order to fully be present with your child, we must also do things that nurture our soul as well.  I invite you to take a moment to yourself right now by placing one hand on your heart, the other on your stomach and feel your breath. Quietly extend compassion to yourself in this chaotic time.

You are seen, you are heard.  We are all doing the best we can.  

Presley Pacholick, LCSW
By: Presley Pacholick, LCSW

The Misbehaving Student…and How to Help Them

It is the most difficult children who often need us the most.  We hear from people working in schools that consequences and suspensions do not seem to change their behavior.  Core curriculum, testing and other requirements are putting an incredible burden on teachers. These challenging students are often the tipping point for a class.

What these misbehaving children are really looking for is to feel like they belong in the class, and that they are cared about.

Many of the misbehaving children have had things happen in their young lives that cause them to distrust others.  They may not have been fed or had their physical needs taken care of as babies, so they do not understand “if-then” thinking – if I cry, I get fed.  If I act out in class, then there are consequences. Some may be dealing with abuse or neglect of them or a parent, drugs or alcohol in the home, or violence.  They may feel they always have to be “on guard”, to protect themselves. 

All it takes is one adult to make a difference a child’s life.

So what can be done to help?  Here are some ways to build relationships with these most difficult children:

  • Get to where you can speak face to face with them.   Speak calmly and slowly. If you remain calm, it will help them to calm down.
  • Express an understanding of how they are feeling, saying “It seems like you are really angry.  Tell me more.” And then listen.
  • Ask them what you can do to help them.  They may need a break from being in the class, so asking if they would like to bring something to the office or another class may help.
  • Focus on building the relationship.  As trust is built, they may question it, as they may not have had a trusting relationship with an adult before. 

It is important to have patience and give it time.  These children likely have had years of bad relationships with adults.  As the relationship builds, the whole class benefits. There will be less disruptions, and more teachable time.  You can be that “one adult” for this child!

Written by: Carol Dores

Carol is a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer. She has worked with educators and staff of preschoolers through high school, as well as hundreds of parents of all aged children (prenatal to adult). She co-founded Positive Discipline of Connecticut, and served as Co-Chair of the international Board of Directors of the Positive Discipline Association. Carol has worked with schools in bringing Positive Discipline to whole school settings. She has two adult sons and a husband of over 35 years. Their relationships continue to grow and benefit from Positive Discipline.


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