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What should I say to my kids about Charlottesville?

Published: Aug. 14, 2017 at 8:30 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2017 at 11:30 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - You've probably seen images from Charlottesville of white supremacists marching, clashing with counter protestors, or that horrific scene where a car plowed into a group of anti-white supremacist protestors.

Odds are, your kids have probably seen those images too. So what do they think of what's going on? How do you talk to them about racism and violence?

Experts say you should not avoid talking to your kids about what's going on, especially controversial events like Charlottesville.

"These conversations are rarely easy, and sometimes we don't have answers. What we do have is time, patience and the desire to help our children grow into adults who value and honor diversity," said Dana Williams of Teaching Tolerance.

Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and provides resources and support to schools, organizations, and communities, encouraging them to have a more open-minded approach to other cultures and creeds.

Williams, in her publication "Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent's Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice" says she's learned three main things while raising her kids and teaching them to be tolerant along the way.

Speak openly: When we are honest with children about our country's history of bigotry, sexism, and stereotypes, we help prepare them to challenge these issues when they arise. A child who knows the racial history of the Confederate flag, for example, is less likely to brandish that symbol out of ignorance.

Model equity: As parents, we are our kids' first teachers. When it comes to teaching tolerance, actions speak louder than words. When you say that boys and girls are equal but refuse to buy your son an Easy Bake Oven because it's a "girls' toy," what message do you send?

Do something: Take a stand when you witness injustice. Challenge racism, bigotry, and stereotypes, and encourage your child to take action, too. Silence and inaction in the face of bigotry condone it. With regard to offensive mascots, for example, hold a petition drive, write an editorial in the school paper, organize a boycott of the school supply store — do something to make a difference.

Experts cited in Williams' publication say that parents are the first and most important and influential teacher in a child's life, and it's important for kids to hear from their parents on controversial topics. What you allow them to read, see and hear layers their foundation that will ultimately form their opinions and responses.

Read more from Williams and get more tips on what to say to your kids about racism and violence here.

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