MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The disturbing video of George Floyd is leading to many difficult conversations for families across the country. But experts say these talks are necessary and need to take place early and more often.
Seven-year-old Aiden is a fun-loving and curious kid, but his mother Imani Osei-Acheampong worries that in today’s society, not everyone sees him that way. This week, they’ve had to discuss the video of George Floyd.
“I think he’s asking the question that everybody asked, and that’s why,” Osei-Acheampong says, “and that’s what I’ve been having to explain to him, why, and why is racism is a big thing in America.”
Dr. Nia Heard-Garris studies racism and its impact on children at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital. She says vicarious or secondhand racism can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.
“When the victim looks like you, you may carry a heavier burden in that, and thinking, that could be my mom, that could be me, you know, that could be my brother,” Dr. Heard-Garris said.
Dr. Heard-Garris believes families of all ethnicities should talk about race. She suggests approaching the subject from a historical view and highlighting more recent events.
She stresses starting the conversation before children see images in the media, “because you make sense of the world for your child,” she says. “In order to move us to a more anti-racist society, we’ve got to be willing to have these conversations.”
The talks can start as early as 2 years old, and should be age-appropriate as children get older.
Parents should ask kids what they’ve seen and how they’re feeling. You can reassure younger kids about what you’re doing to keep them safe.
For older kids, it can be a teachable moment to discuss if they have experienced or witnessed racism.
“I think no matter what age you are, no matter what race you are, I think this hit everybody,” Osei-Acheampong says, “because it’s something that just can’t be ignored anymore, and ignoring it and not teaching your kids about it is such a disservice to them.”
She hopes having the honest conversations will lead to change.
Dr. Heard-Garris says books can also help families navigate these difficult issues. She also suggests several websites that can help start the conversation, such as the following: