5 Tips For Talking To Children About Hate Crimes

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My sisters are much younger than me, each by over decade. Each day it feels like there’s more news of a new hate crime taking place in our country, and although I feel it is my job to protect them from the things going on in our world, I also feel I have to be honest and frank about these events, especially when they come to me for the answers.

Things like marginalized groups being attacked by others for merely existing, whether it’s performing normal tasks such as visiting their religious institution or going out on a date with a loved one are the kind of painful conversations that are necessary to have. With all the hatred that exists within our world, it’s time to stop being afraid of having these tough conversations with each other and with our children, as doing so only allows these issues to be normalized and continue. Here are five tips for talking to children about hate crimes.

 

1. Open the Conversations Up

Start these conversations with children so that they know they can come to you with questions or concerns around these topics. Ignoring the facts doesn't make the issues go away, even if you feel they don’t directly impact you or your family. Avoiding a topic because it’s not an issue that directly impacts you is selfish and limiting.

Having such little regard for others stunts the progress of our culture and in ending these crimes. Being honest not only clarifies issues your child might be scared to talk about, but also teaches them about being able to communicate with others about hard topics.

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2. Share Your Own Feelings

It’s okay to say “this scares me.” I tell my sisters that these hate crimes scare me, but not enough that I won’t continue to live my life. I share my own experiences and feelings (at an age appropriate level) that communicates that anxiety and fear is a normal reaction, but not one we should continue to live with.

Children should be able to feel safe and secure, while still understanding that this is something that takes places and is something that likely affects the people around them, regardless of whether they talk about it or not.

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3. Correct Misinformation

Children’s seemingly never ending access to the internet and other forms of mass media means they are constantly bombarded with different kinds of information, many of which may be skewed or outright false. As a nation known for having leaders that spout untrue information as if it were real, especially with regard to hate crimes in our recent years, it’s important to find out what your children think they know and correct them where they’re wrong.

This doesn't mean criticizing them for being wrong, but rather means clarifying information they may be misinformed about, and reiterating why it’s important to get information from more than one source.

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4. Help Them Recognize Hatred and Hate Crimes

Of course, everything being spoken about should be at an appropriate level, but again they shouldn't be shielded from it because it is painful to talk about. This doesn't mean go out and list every hateful word for marginalized groups that exists, but rather help explain how something as a little as toppling over the gravestones in Jewish cemeteries or as major as a shooting in a synagogue is a hate crime, because of a specific group being targeted.

Doing so allows them to recognize and verbalize things taking place in their life, that they might not have realized is hatred.

 

5. Help Teach Empathy and Sympathy

Now, during these worst moments, is the time to teach children to empathize with those who are different from us, and who may experience the world different from us. Doing so helps them process what is being learned and teaches them what will and will not be accepted within our culture.

This also helps with further preventing hate crimes and speech, as they again learn the behavior that should exist and the kind they feel safe speaking out against. There’s nothing better you can do then to teach your child to be a good ally, regardless of the situations they might find themselves in, in the future.

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These tips are a good way to start an open dialogue with your children, or children in your life who may have little, or the wrong information on the topic. It’s so important to the progress of our nation and our culture that we have these painful conversations so that our children learn to speak out against the hatred in their lives, and learn to accept nothing less than respect and equality for all groups.