With hundreds of thousands of people protesting racism in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Lewes resident Athena Allread says it’s especially important to have discussions about race and racism with your children.
Allread is a mother of three and co-owner of Lanikai Wellness Studio. Her children are biracial, which she says creates challenges of its own, but also provides a compassionate platform for viewing both sides of the race discussion.
When having these discussions, she says there are three main steps to follow.
• Identify what your own beliefs are before starting the conversation. This way, you’ll already know where you stand, Allread said. This step also helps you become aware of the biases you could be bringing to the conversation, due to your own lived experiences and vantage points, she said.
• For parents and grandparents: understand your feelings about what you’re discussing and everything that’s going on in today’s current climate. Allread said this is a good way to open up the conversation, though you have to be mindful not to project your own feelings onto your child.
• Ask your child or grandchild, “How do you feel about this?” By asking this question, Allread said, she believes parents and grandparents can learn from their children. They might even gain some insight and shift their own perspective when they open up to their child’s point of view, she said.
“It’s not just ‘I’m going to tell this child what’s happening and how to think,’ but instead, ‘I’m going to see how this child already thinks.”
Allread said that when having these conversations, you should encourage your child to ask questions and be mindful of how you answer them. She also suggested three important questions for getting the conversation started. These questions include “What do you think of this?” “How does this make you feel?” and “What do you think we should do about this?”
“Children do have really incredible answers,” Allread said.
If parents and grandparents take a collaborative approach with their children and use their answers, then they’re making their child an active participant in bringing about change, Allread said.
Allread also suggested a fun, easy activity that parents or grandparents can do with their children. What you do is grab a pen, trace your hand on a piece of paper, get a big box of crayons and each of you try to see all the colors it takes to match your skin tone.
“This exercise helped my son understand that, ‘Wow, I used pink, yellow, brown, beige, and all of these colors to match my color,’” Allread said.
She first did this exercise with him when he was in kindergarten. She said it also helped open up a discussion about the richness of one’s heritage.
Teaching your child about Delaware’s black history is another important element of having conversations about race, Allread said. One way to do this is educating children about the Underground Railroad and Delaware’s role in it.
She also recommended the Lewes History Museum, which she said has a lot of information about black history.
Allread said we’re being presented with a moment in history that allows us to become more unified than ever as a human race, but in order to achieve this unity, these conversations must be had.