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Dr. J’s 3 Tips for Parents on Racial Unity: Reflections from a Peaceful Gathering 

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at a peaceful protest being hosted near my neighborhood. I first addressed the parents in the crowd, discussing my own parents’ move from Jamaica to the US, a leap made so that I could have more opportunities than either of my parents. While every parent desires for their child(ren) to be successful, it is our collective responsibility to ensure a community and society in which this is possible. Racism and injustice stand as large and daunting obstacles in the path of success for too many children. The following 3 tips can be used to help you engage in discussions about racial inequality and prejudice with your family.

#1: Have The TalkIt seems like a simple enough call to action. If you care for the education of your children and others, then recognize your power to do something! Having a heart and passion to make a change isn’t always a simple solution. Parents can have anxiety which prevents them from having difficult conversations with their children. They may wonder, Are we going to say the right thing? or Is this too much for our child? I encourage parents to face their anxiety head on in order to raise children that become active and informed adults.

#2: Take ActionParents must put in the effort to educate themselves and practice what they preach to their children. Push yourself beyond feeling bad. Beyond feeling sad. Beyond feeling angry. And do! Action is the biggest thing we can do. Show up. Have the conversation. Read the book. Feel the uncomfortable emotions that you will go through, but don’t stay there. Considering how impressionable young children are, it is important to set the example that beyond having an open and compassionate heart, one must have the courage to act on their beliefs and not just sit on them in silence while the rest of society labors to make the change.

#3: Own Your Privilege A key part of truly feeling compassion for those that are facing tragedy and injustice is to not invalidate experiences beyond what you will ever personally face. For people of color, worrying about small things that may not even cross others’ minds is a way of life. I must think about how I walk to my car as a black man, if somebody is in front of me, not wanting to trigger any form of anxiety or fear in them. Recognize we all have some level of privilege and we can use that to help somebody else. We can ask the question, What is it that you’re experiencing that I never have to think about? Just because it is an obstacle you have not had to recognize in your own life, does not mean that obstacle is magically nonexistent for others. I encourage parents during this time to overcome their anxiety and have the talk about racism with their children, take action to educate oneself to set an example for their kids, and lastly address one’s own form of privilege to begin helping others. By using these tips, parents can further shape their children into concerned and active members of society, hopefully creating a more just world in the future.

Dr. George James (@GeorgeTalks), Chief Innovation Officer, Senior Staff Therapist & Supervisor at Council for Relationships, Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy Program at Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of George Talks LLC. Jamie McClelland, is a senior at Villanova University, double majoring in English and Communications with a specialization in media production.

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