Talking to Children about Racism

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June 3, 2020 

Dear Elementary Families: 

As we consider all that is confounding and confronting our city, state, country and world today, we are reminded of the powerful conversations surrounding race and racism that our school district’s School Climate Committee has been sponsoring over the past few years and wanted to take a moment and provide some guidelines we’ve found helpful for discussing tragic events with children.  


Your Elementary Principals: Susan Drake, Jeannine Hetzler, and Melissa Klosterman-Lando


Start a conversation with your child.  


Be aware of/limit your child’s exposure to news media and social networking outlets. 


Assess what your child knows.  Address the tough stuff if your children bring it up. They might see it on TV or hear about it at school and then you have to deal with it. Be aware that younger students (like many other folks) may react with deep emotion, may not react at all, or their reaction may fall somewhere in between. 


Keep conversations simple.  Children are often reassured when they understand the precautions that are in place that make their world safer.


Ask questions. Don't assume you know how your child feels. Instead, get at their understanding of what happened. They might be afraid -- or just curious. You can help them share their feelings  by asking things like 'What did you hear? What do you think? What can I help you with? If they are scared, ask what they're afraid of - don't assume you know. Correct any misconceptions, and then offer assurance.


Let them know that each of their feelings makes sense, and that it's ok to feel whatever they're feeling.  Parents and adults need to first deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress. Assure them that it is also ok to put feelings away for a while, and allow a healthy distraction (bike ride, an outdoor 6’ chat with a friend, or outside family game) to bring some comfort.  


Conduct your own research.  We’ve started a list here for you to consider.  


The following links provide additional information about responding to traumatic events: 


Resources focusing on conversations about race and racism: 


Melissa Klosterman-Lando
Principal at Montrose Elementary, Bexley City School District
Email: [email protected]
Follow Montrose Elementary on Twitter at @BexleyMontrose

Montrose Elementary School | 2555 E. Main St., Bexley, OH 43209 | (614) 237-4226