I have given much thought to how to talk to Ryan about the violence we are seeing on the streets of America.
I am sure that every parent whether your child has a disability or not is mulling over the same questions. What should I say? Not say? Certainly, your child’s age and developmental level will be your guide.
Some of my thoughts……
First, not talking about it should not be an option. Any time you turn on TV, you are seeing the destruction on the streets and hearing the terms “riot,” “racial injustice” and “police violence.” Even if you think that you have been screening your child’s TV time, I am sure that he/she has seen some of this. For Ryan, not talking about this will result in worrying…will this be happening in Erie????
I began by talking about safety. What does Mom do, every day? Keep you safe. Do you need to worry about the protests? No.
We also talked about the word “riot.” This is not a word in his vocabulary, so I explained that a riot is a group of people who get together and want to damage property and steal items that don’t belong to them. This is against the law and people will go to jail if they are part of a riot.
Racism or racial injustice are concepts that Ryan and I have never discussed. We have friends and family members of color, so I really don’t think that the color of someone’s skin is a consideration for him. But, I do think that it is important for him to understand that there are some people who would treat a person differently based on the color of his/her skin. In our terms, that is not being kind. If someone is being treated differently, it is important for us to say, “That is not being kind. You should stop.”
I then began to think about police violence. In our lexicon, the police are a community helper, someone we turn to if we should get lost or need help. I explained that unfortunately, there may be policemen and women who make bad choices and do not follow the laws. They may be aggressive and hurt someone. For doing this, they will go to jail for the rest of their lives. Almost all police men and women are kind people, but there may be a few who are not and they commit crimes. We don’t know anyone like that and we probably never will, but it can happen.
You may think that this discussion is very simplistic and yes, it is. However, Ryan is someone who thinks everything is either true or false, who focuses only on the concrete and who also worries about everything.
You know your child best, so that will be your guide as to what you discuss and not discuss.
I plan to revisit our talk in the days to come. This was only our initial discussion.
I would be interested in hearing how you are approaching these topics with your child.
Stay safe and healthy!