Speaking Mental Health
Forward Times Mental Health Advisors
Unfortunately, racism is not a new topic in the home of Black families but it is one that brings much discomfort when speaking with children. According to newscientist.com, Black people are more likely than White people to develop mental health issues with the numerous strings of high profile police killings of Black people. Racism and social injustice has forced us into states of extreme anger, anxiety, and/or depression. Oftentimes, we do not think about having those critical conversations with our children or teens. However, this is not a situation that should be silenced. Black families are faced with having conversations with our children when others are not. Many times we want to protect our children by avoiding those topics, but we see that our loved ones of all ages are becoming victims. They must be taught. They must be aware.
These killings and racism are covered extensively in social media, a place where many children frequent often. So it is not surprising that most children may know more about what is going on in the world than we give them credit for. Social media has significantly closed the gap in public knowledge and communication. It is a platform where children learn about what’s going on in the world and share information with each other. We need to make sure that they have a safe space for conversations and are sharing correct information.
Children and teens have experiences with being impacted by racism as well as adults. Whether it’s with their peers at school, racial profiling at school, or even driving while black. Some are not sure how to respond or protect themselves. Parents should take time to speak with their young ones about what is going on in society and warn them against acts that would place them in a dangerous situation. This is not the time to be passive or naïve thinking that things will get better soon or “it won’t happen to us”.
Racial issues bring on many mental issues such as anxiety, anger, depression and may have a significant impact on children’s performance in school. Having critical conversations with your children not only increases their awareness, but it may also give them the space to express their feelings with you. Limiting your child’s exposure to such events on social media and television may help to relieve some of their anxiety, and talking about those events little by little may be less overwhelming. Talk to your children, be supportive, and let them know that they are not alone.
Angela M. Powell, Ph.D., LPC-S, CSC
Dr. Angela M. Powell is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Progressive Counseling & Consulting, LLC., specializing in youth trauma, anxiety, and depression.