Recent events such as the mass shooting in California and riots in Baltimore have lead to conversations about religious discrimination and racism. Parents often find themselves wanting to either shield their children from these conversations or uncertain where to begin. Believing the very best solutions to problems come from kids, I asked middle and upper school girls at St. Paul’s School for Girls to provide advice for their parents on broaching these challenging topics. Here is some of what they shared...
Middle School says, please...
Ask questions about our thoughts and really listen for the answers
Share rather than impose your opinion
Give an option for us to talk or not to talk
Assure us we won’t be in trouble if we have different opinions than you
Talk about these things regularly, not just when an issue comes up or you get a letter from school
Understand prejudice comes from not understanding and we want to understand
Ask questions such as “What do you think diversity is?”
Don’t speak at us, it shuts us down
Help us avoid a “loyalty conflict” by not be overly opposed to what we learn at school
Expect us to have a lack of judgment
Set-up at time to talk about big topics ahead of time to avoid over stressing us
Don’t force the topic but also don’t let us opt out of hard conversations
Ask us how to talk about difficult topics in the future
Know that respecting your opinion does not mean we have to have the same opinion
Upper School says, please…
Don’t impose your views on us
Know we need support to help us discover who we are so we can have a strong belief system supported by parents even if it is different than what you want us to be
Talk regularly about these issues not just when something happens so we know how to react. This will help us reduce anxiety when things happen.
Understand, we are finding our true selves and if we aren’t who you think or expect us to be, don’t judge us… just assume we are discovering
Don’t assume our friends are our primary influence in who we will become
Know that if you overreact we won’t feel we can share with you, especially after a bad day.
Believe we know you want the best for us and we are often surprised by how we are changing so don’t freak out
Let us know you are open to listening to us
Tell us you know things are not as they were when you were in high school.
Don’t shelter us from knowing things it leads to prejudice and stereotypes because we have to learn everything from media, friends and rumors
Trust that we can teach you too
Expose us to your ideas and thoughts.
Believe us, we know we need to do our part to develop our relationships with you
As you can see from most of the comments, there isn’t a road map for such conversations but there are necessary components including listening, remaining free of judgment and talking frequently. I am grateful for the girls and faculty at SPSG who welcome me into their community and partner with me on the important work of deepening their relationship to the many topics of diversity.