Although I said my last Mental Health Matters blog would be my final for a while, I feel compelled to address the current discussions about race and racism occurring within our society. Racism is always happening, whether it makes the news or not, but between the murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of COVID on Black and Brown communities, discussions of race and racism are at the forefront. I believe it is our responsibility at Ellis to address these issues and support our children and families
Ellis is a diverse program— something I believe many of us value. It also means we have a diverse set of needs and ways we experience and feel things. One thing we all share is a struggle to figure out how to speak to our children about what is happening in the world. Some of us have the privilege to opt-in or out of conversations, while many of us do not. I have found part of the beauty in Ellis is that most of our community wants to opt-in. I cannot tell you how to think or feel about what is going on, but I can share tools to help you foster discussions to promote social justice in a way that feels right for you and your family.
To those of you feeling the weight of racial trauma—I am with you. As a soon-to-be mother of a Black and Brown son, I share many of the anxieties you may have. There are some things I do not understand and can not fully understand. I will always do my best, though, to be in solidarity and to offer support for you and your child, and I believe in the Ellis community to do our best to be there to support you and your child, too.
Below I have compiled a list of resources to address our various needs and information during this time. There are a multitude of resources to explore beyond these, should you continue to dig deeper. In the meantime, I hope you find these helpful.
Thank you everyone. Be well,
Action You Can Take to Be an Ally
Before we can speak with our children about race and racism, it’s important to check in with ourselves. How are we feeling? How might we label our feelings in a developmentally appropriate way for our child? It is vital to realize your own implicit bias and how you may have internalized messages of race and its impact on your own self-esteem. These resources offer ways you can support the movement and also address internal work we can do to challenge our own biases.
Nicole the Librarian has curated a collection of resources to challenge racism for both children and adults. Included is a scaffolded anti racism resource that helps identify what “Stage of White Identity” a person might be, and provides resources for learning and actions items based on the results.
How to Support the Black Community in Boston Right Now details concrete ways you can support the Black community in Boston. The list includes supporting nonprofits, community organizations and Black-owned businesses.
Activist Deray Mckesson outlines how to be ally in the fight for racial justice. Be sure to also check out his TED Talk, linked in the article.
How to Stop the Racist in You is an amazing article that examines the scientific aspects of implicit bias and how we can challenge our brains to change. This article provides strategies for reworking our brain and challenging it to be more open to difference.
7 Books to Read Right Now to Help Support BIPOC In Your Community and Beyond curates titles that support learning the history of structural racism in the country and books that support contending with White privilege.
This video breaks down systemic racism continues to impact implicit bias.
How to Talk About Race and Racism with Your Child
Many of these resources have similar messages with nuanced differences in approaches or the questions they ask. There is something comforting in knowing there are known tactics that help children understand race and help them feel comfortable learning more. Find the one that speaks your family.
Are Your Kids Too Young to Talk About Race? helps demonstrate the developmental stages
when children begin to recognize race and how they use this information to make decisions when selecting peer groups. (Hint: it starts much much sooner than you might think.)
How do I talk to young children about the racial injustices happening right now? helps parents prepare concrete responses you can use when children ask challenging questions.
Supporting Kids Of Color in The Wake of Racialized Violence: Part One, while written in 2016, sadly is still relevant. EmbraceRace co-founders Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud offer discussion between child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, educator Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman, and a group of parents, teachers and other caregivers concerned about black and brown children. You can also listen to it via their podcast, linked in this article.
“I think it’s really important that we always connect our children to our stories of hope and resilience. Because that’s the reality. You know I’m here as a black woman because people before me have survived and have thrived.”- Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith
Racism and Violence: Using Your Power as a Parent to Support Children Aged Two to Five speaks to some of our earliest learners about race and violence, and also provides information on supporting your child through traumatic and or scary experiences. Zero to Three also offers important resources to help support your young child’s development more generally.
How to Talk to your Children About Racism and Protesting addresses the importance of checking in with yourself as a parent and how to approach these topics with your child in a developmentally appropriate way. It also includes a book list and resources for infants and toddlers through high school aged kids, as well as a book list to support learning for parents.
10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids about Race provides tips for families of all backgrounds to speak with their children about race and identity. The article also offers concrete actions to promote continued learning in your daily life.
Talking to Kids about Race and Ethnicity is a blog series about speaking with children about race and ethnicity. This post specifically discusses the importance of building a positive self-image in helping children of color cope with racial stress.
Wee the People identifies ways you can encourage your child to be an activist and explores how as a family you can promote racial justice. They also offer tools for holding space for conversations that feel may feel challenging.
Conversations that Matter: Talking with Children About Big World Issues from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is not specifically about race, however it offers tips for having brave conversations with children around difficult topics.
Reading Lists for Children to Support Learning About Diversity and Support Empowerment in Identity as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)
Books have a way of opening us to whole new worlds. They can take us to magical places or reflect on the journeys of those we may not normally see, especially those who don’t look like or have different beliefs than us. Representation in children’s books are a critical and seeing oneself represented positively can be transformative, especially for BIPOC. More generally, learning about others can help develop a broader, more enriched and compassionate world-view.
Due to COVID and an increased demand, finding some of these books may be challenging right now, howeverI encourage you to order from a BIPOC owned bookstore, like Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury. You can also find many of these stories as read-alouds on YouTube or Hoopla Library, or SocialJusticeBooks.org.
The Conscious Kid is an education, research and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth. They partner with organizations, children’s museums, schools, and families across the country to promote access to children’s books centering underrepresented and oppressed groups.
31 Children's Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism and Resistance is a beautiful collection of books. They write, “Beyond addressing issues of race and racism, this children’s reading list focuses on taking action. It highlights resistance, resilience and activism; and seeks to empower youth to participate in the ongoing movement for racial justice. These books showcase the diverse ways people of all ages and races have engaged in anti-racist activism, and highlight how race intersects with other issues, such as capitalism, class and colonization. The majority of books center activists of color, whose lives and bodies have been on the front lines of racial justice work, yet whose stories often go untold. The essential work of white activists is also included — to underscore that anti-racist work is not the responsibility of people of color; and exemplify the ways white allies have stood up against racial injustice.”
Broadening the Story: 60 Picture Books Starring Black Mighty Girls is a collection of stories of “everyday life starring black Mighty Girls for toddlers, preschoolers, and younger elementary school readers. Whether they're fixing robots or outsmarting foxes, going to the library or dancing on stage, these Mighty Girl characters exude confidence and happiness — and with the support of devoted friends and family, there's nothing they can't do!” I LOVE this collection!
These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids is a great article that breaks down the age-appropriateness of the books and how to best utilize them with your child.
“Step Into Your Power” is a book for empowering young people to be comfortable with who they are and sharing their strengths with the world. Geared for children in Grades 5 and up, it breaks down how young people can learn how to take action, express themselves, and ask for help. Recommended by the Tutu Teacher, who shares education resources, fostering the love of reading and Black empowerment—She is just delightful!
Mental Health Support
Mental health matters. Taking care of ourselves and nurturing our wellbeing is important, not just for oneself but for your role as parents and caregivers—especially right now.
This list shares resources for finding a therapist of color in the Boston area, including specialized lists for finding a male of color therapist or finding an affordable therapist. (Please note that when looking for a therapist, you might not find the right one right away. You can always advocate for a new provider—this is your right.)
44 Mental Health Resources for Black People Trying to Survive in This Country is a comprehensive list of various mental health resources. As a therapist, I found a lot of resources I intend to check out for myself.
If you need additional support in processing your emotions during this time- or any time- Psychology Today can help you find a provider that meets your needs. Each profile features therapists specialties as well as what insurance they take. You can email them as well to learn more about their approach.