The Therapy Beat

The Therapy Beat

Can Therapists Help Parents Raise Antiracist Kids?

By Marian Sandmaier

September/October 2020

It’s been disturbing enough for adults, this season of unrest. Just a few months ago, the world watched the brutal police killing of an unarmed Black man, followed by massive, largely peaceful protests that unleashed yet more police violence—billy clubs cracked over heads, people punched to the ground, rubber bullets fired, tear gas canisters shot into panicked crowds. Some of us may have been in those crowds, or marching not far away. Amid the chaos, we also glimpsed acts of great courage, steadfastness, and caring on the part of protesters and some officials. Still, the images of violence are indelible.

If adults are deeply shaken, then what’s it like for children? Unlike protests of the past—the anti–Vietnam War rallies, the marches of the civil rights movement—scenes of mass tumult today are readily available, in real time, to any middle-schooler with a cell phone. Even very young children have likely seen flashes of angry or terrified crowds on TV, and have heard adults talking, worrying, and perhaps arguing over the issues. It’s a good bet that a lot of kids are scared, and nearly all are confused. Why do cops kill Black people? Who are the good people? Am I safe?

If ever there was a moment to talk with children about racism and antiracism, it’s now. This is especially true for parents of white kids. By the…

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