We have all heard and seen the aftermath of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. We’ve had many conversations with our friends and colleagues about what a failure to indict means for the Brown family, for Ferguson, for black boys everywhere. But as time passes after this decision, we at GCP are focused on the conversations we need to have with our sons. How do we talk to our younger sons about the Ferguson verdict? How do we help them process what has happened? Here are some tips we’ve compiled from a variety of sources:
Limit younger children’s exposure to media coverage; Answer questions if they arise: Images from the protests following the verdict–burning cars, people looting, crowds being tear gassed–have been frequently shown on television and in print. These images can be particularly frightening and confusing to young boys and girls. Dr. Cynthia Rogers, a child psychiatrist with Washington University, encourages parents not to let their younger children (elementary school age) watch violent coverage on their own. If a child is exposed to this sort of coverage, it’s important that the adult sits down with them and is available to explain what they’re seeing, how rare it is, and that the child is safe. She suggests that you ask your son what he is thinking about what has happened and what he is thinking about it.
If your son comes to you with questions it’s important to answer those questions honestly with age-appropriate language, making sure to reassure him that he is safe, and that his questions are welcome. However if a child is unaware and going about their daily life normally, you wouldn’t necessarily want to sit them down and force this information upon them. Signs that your young son may be struggling with anxious feelings include not sleeping well, having nightmares; being a little bit more clingy than they normally would be; crying more often; appearing more nervous.
Talk to your middle schoolers about America’s history with race and protests: According to Dr. Marcia Chatelain, an Assistant Professor of History at Georgetown University, with junior high students who are likely to be more aware of the details involving Ferguson more honest conversations about race and American racial history are appropriate. The Ferguson crisis is also an excellent way of introducing students to the principles of governance, public servants and leadership challenges. If you would like to (or direct your son to) research these issues more thoroughly, see the #FergusonSyllabus below.
#FergusonSyllabus: Dr. Chatelain asked the Twitter universe to suggest resources to help teach our children all of the lessons of Ferguson using #FergusonSyllabus, and a community of teachers, academics, community leaders, and parents have responded. She has compiled a partial list of these resources in an article in The Atlantic found here.Scroll through this listing and click on some of its offerings, and encourage your sons to do the same.