In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, many parents are wondering how best to discuss the topic of racism with their children.
Darryl Owens shared three powerful points on this timely and complicated topic of racism with parents of the Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ’s (GPCC) Youth and Family Ministry. Darryl serves as an elder in the Boston Church of Christ and has worked for the Boston Police Department as a trainer in defensive tactics and use of force for more than two decades. He was baptized in 1996 on the same day as his wife, and he has two wonderful daughters.
1. INITIATE the discussion.
As parents, we have to step in and initiate the conversation on race with our children. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, racism needs to be discussed in the home. Talking to our children about sensitive topics is challenging. In our desire to raise Godly children, we take the time to educate our children about sex according to God’s plan. We do not rely on the school system, our child’s peers or TV/movies to provide that education. In the same vein, let’s not let social media or the world define racism and shape our teens’ and younger children’s hearts in response to this complicated topic. Go ahead and initiate the discussion, even if it is uncomfortable. Before doing so, take the time to sort out your own emotions and thoughts on the topic. Take those emotions and thoughts to God in prayer, and don’t hesitate to get help and advice.
Darryl encouraged us to make our discussions age-appropriate. God wants parents to teach their children to love Him and to love others.
2. MODEL the behavior.
Children will remember and take to heart what you do, over what you say. The saying that “actions speak louder than words” rings true. Model the heart and behavior you want your children to live out. Our older children are especially adept at spotting hypocrisy. Above all else, as followers of Jesus, we want our teens to be righteous–not just having outward socially acceptable behavior, but loving all men and women from their hearts whether someone is like them or not. As such, we must be their model, whether the world is watching or not.
We are blessed by God to have such a diverse church. Given the great diversity, Darryl challenged parents to consider the following questions:
- Can you be righteous and go to a protest?
- Can you be righteous and NOT go to a protest?
- Can you be righteous and lean left politically?
- Can you be righteous and lean right politically?
If you’re struggling with answering any of the questions above–the answer is YES to all. We can be unified in Jesus even in the midst of our great diversity. We will be successful as we learn to model the biblical values of graciousness, compassion, and righteousness.
3. LISTEN to your teen’s heart.
As your children mature into teens, let them lead some of the discussions. As parents, we might be surprised by the experiences or reactions our teens have encountered with racism in their own sphere. They have their own experiences, opinions and views. Ask them and then LISTEN to them; we as parents may learn something. When our teens start talking about an issue, even if it makes us uncomfortable; let them talk as we seek to understand. Don’t exasperate them by saying things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way!” We don’t know what they are feeling, and we need to listen to find out. At the same time don’t force the conversation. Every teen responds differently. Let them know the door is open for them to talk, and be sure to check in every now and then to understand what they’ve seen or heard and how they feel about it.
If you are interested in learning more about the GPCC’s Youth and Family Ministry, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.