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How kids feel racism through the media, and why it’s our job to help them understand

Aug 29, 2016

Whenever there's a story of violence that takes over the news cycle, parents face a challenge: How much do you tell your child? How do you answer your child's questions? Do you wade right into what happened and why? Or do you divert them, and try to give them something different to think about?

For parents of color, these challenges come up with each act of police-related violence on black males, or violence aimed at police officers who are just doing their jobs, such as in Dallas or Baton Rouge.

Dr. Nia Heard-Garris is a pediatrician doing research on the impact racism, and these racially-charged news stories, can have on children.

Her article on TheConversation.comProtecting our children after the wounds of racism divide us even more, explores vicarious racism ("racism experienced through the eyes of someone else", explained Heard-Garris) and its potential impact on children.

Heard-Garris joined Stateside to share her personal stories about how she has been affected by incidents such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin and how that has inspired her research and her parenting. She also talks about how, as a pediatrician, she includes these issues into her practice and thinks other medical care providers should do the same thing. According to Heard-Garris, by bringing up the topic, care providers can get their patients the help they or their kids need. 

One of the challenges that parents face, especially parents of children of color, is finding the balance of informing your child and providing the appropriate context, and terrifying them. Heard-Garris has advice for that, as well as some resources for parents, from CivilRights.org and the American Academy of Pediatrics

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about how racism can affect children, as well as a powerful personal story about how even toddlers can absorb traumatic information that you think you're shielding them from. 

GUEST: Dr. Nia Heard-Garris is a pediatrician and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan School of Medicine.

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