5 Tips for Parents and Caregivers to Connect with Children around Tough Topics like Bullying, Racism, and More

5 Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  1. Listen and Role Model: Find time each week (or even every day if possible) to focus on your child in an unpressured way. This may be as simple as a short conversation about their science class, the music they’re listening to, or something funny they saw. It could also be a way to learn that they feel like they are being bullied or hurt, that they saw someone else being bullied and want to know what to say, or that they are actually hurting others. The ultimate goal is to build a trusting relationship with children by role modeling, celebrating their interests and successes, and supporting them in building connections and a positive self-image.
  2. Ask questions: When children ask questions, we often want to seem like we have all of the answers, but it’s OK if we don’t.  We want to let them know we are there for them, and that we are going to help through tough situations, but it’s OK for our children to see that we are still learning and growing as well.  Ask targeted questions that help further the conversation, like: 
    1. Would ____ help you feel safer in your class/school? 
    2. Can you tell me more about what you heard/saw/did when ____ happened?  
    3. Who is one person in addition to me that you can speak to about this?  
  3. Research/learn: Take time to learn about the topics that your child is sharing. This can be articles, books, podcasts, and videos that help explore topics that may seem difficult to address, like racism, gender bias, xenophobia, and other forms of hate. It’s also important to take time to learn and celebrate the amazing things that make us unique and also understand and appreciate that other cultures are unique and amazing as well.  This can be accomplished through family experiences, books you read, or shows you watch together, for example.   
  4. Build a community/Partner with schools and organizations: Connect with other families in the school and neighborhood to share success and challenges as a parent or caregiver.  Other families are also looking for connections for themselves and their children.  This also involves building a connection with the adults at your children’s school and community spaces.  While time is limited, it goes a long way to join a committee in the school, volunteer, and/or find other ways to engage a teacher or principal.  If challenges do occur, such as negative/bullying behavior, it will be easier to engage a school to make change if you already have a relationship with them.
  5. Take time for self care: Raising children can be incredibly rewarding and also really tough.  It is essential to be able to take space for ourselves, and to allow children to do the same.  If conflict occurs, it’s OK to recognize our own triggers, help children identify their triggers, and reconnect when things calm down.  Some strategies include: creating a safe space or retreat, active listening once everyone is ready to share, and making a plan for the future for when conflict arises again.