September 2020 Newsletter

Emma Tweitmann   -  

Talk With Children About Race

In addition to all the “normal” parenting challenges, 2020 has been filled with tough news and difficult situations to explain to kids. During a deadly and disruptive pandemic, protests erupted against racial injustice.

Even if racial conflict isn’t a hot topic in your particular community, church, or schools, all parents are faced with addressing race in age-appropriate ways. We may assume that kids are “color-blind” and need to be shielded from talk of prejudice; however, experts warn such assumptions can unintentionally perpetuate stereotypes. 

Author Dallas Willard said people can unknowingly pick up beliefs like a wool jacket picks up lint, and it takes intentional effort to deal with all that “cultural lint.” Kids watch parents, listen to us chat, and absorb the news, so while it’s a good start, it’s not enough to only say, “God loves everyone, and so should we.” 

It’s true that God loves everyone, but he also created people differently. And as a God of justice, he wants his followers to stand up against all types of discrimination and prejudice. 

Conversations about race can feel awkward, and societal problems can seem overwhelming. But as recent events in America have shown, beginning the conversation is an important first step. Read on for ideas about how you can address race and equality with your children.

Stop Racism Before It Starts

Parents have many opportunities to take action against racism:

  • Begin young, modeling how to embrace and celebrate all skin colors.
  • Don’t ignore racial differences. Answer children’s questions honestly.
  • Surround yourself with people who don’t look like you, and listen to their stories and experiences.
  • Forbid name-calling and racial slurs, and treat all people equally.
  • Seek out multicultural activities, books, toys, TV shows, and films.
  • Become secure in God’s love for you, and affirm the dignity of all races.

Open Invitation Form two groups. Tell groups they can’t speak or interact, but must work together to build a two-story house made out of Lego building blocks (or other blocks). Allow two minutes. Ask everyone to assess the result. Say: “Now we’ll try again, but you’re all one group and you can speak and interact.” Allow two minutes. Ask what was different between the experiences. Read James 2:8-9. Say: “Jesus told us to love others as ourselves. How can we include others in our day-to-day lives?”

Same Shadows Use a bright light to cast shadows on a wall, and then make shadow puppets. Ask: “Which of your shadow puppets is your favorite? How are they all the same? different? How are we the same? different?” Say: “People are alike in so many ways. One way is that no matter our skin color, we all cast the same color shadow!”

Reflections Look into a mirror. Say: “I’m looking at a picture of someone God says is very special. Would you like to look? I’ll show you, but don’t tell who you see.” Hold the mirror up to each person, one at a time. Ask: “Did we all see the same person? Who did you see?” Say: “God thinks we’re all special and doesn’t have a favorite. The person you saw doesn’t look exactly like anyone else. It’s wrong to dislike someone because of how they look.” Read 1 Samuel 16:7. Say: “No matter what you look like, God thinks you’re special—because of what’s inside your heart.” Pray, thanking God for making everyone special.

Sound Off Beforehand, record four people talking. Play each voice, and ask: “Does this person sound kind? fun? Would you like to meet this person? What color is their skin? Does that matter?” Say: “Martin Luther King Jr. believed God wants us to love all people, no matter what they look like. King tried to change laws that treated people unfairly due to skin color.” Read John 13:34-35. Ask: “What does it mean to love all people as God does? What does it mean to love each other equally?”

Face Mosaics Hand out white construction paper. Provide 1-inch squares of “skin”-colored paper (brown, black, pink, beige); “eye”-colored paper (blue, brown, green); red paper; and “hair”-colored paper (yellow, brown, black, red). Create mosaic faces combining all the skin colors. Then complete the faces with eyes, lips, and hair. Say: “God created us using all kinds of colors to make each person unique!”

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. … he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

—Ephesians 2:14 

POWERSOURCE

ASK JESUS:

1. To guide your conversations about tough topics such as racism and discrimination.

2. To remove any stereotypes from your heart and mind.

3. To work through you to build a family and community filled with loving acceptance.

 

RESOURCE RECOMMENDATION

Title: Just Ask!

Author: Sonia Sotomayor

Synopsis: Subtitled “Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” this book from the first Latina U.S. Supreme Court justice features 12 kids who face various challenges and abilities. Through a community-gardening project, Sotomayor’s picture book conveys the message that people’s differences make the world more vibrant.

Our Take: Readers will learn that it’s okay to be curious about other people’s differences, to ask questions politely, and to become friends with them. Sotomayor, diagnosed with diabetes as a child, encourages a direct approach and an “honoring” attitude. Questions help families discuss and relate to each child’s experiences.

TEACHABLE MOMENTS

Unity in Jesus

  • With tape, mark off an area not quite large enough for all family members to sit in. Set pillows near the area. Tell everyone to sit inside the tape. Then bring out stuffed animals and put them on the pillows.
  • Say: I’m sorry you’re crowded, but pillows are only for our special guests. Bring out more animals, and have people stand inside the tape to make room for the animal “overflow.” Then bring out even more animals and have people stand behind the taped area.
  • Ask: How did you feel when you couldn’t sit on the pillows? when you had to give up your seat?
  • Say: Years ago, black people had to sit in separate areas and attend separate schools—all because of skin color. Eventually, laws were changed so black people could be treated fairly, but racism and hatred still exist.
  • Read Galatians 3:28. Say: Jesus loves people of every color, and we’re all very special to Jesus. Rip up the tape, join hands, and close in prayer.