Protesters bring up difficult conversations for families about race, racism

Family counselor shares advice on how to listen to your children

Protesters bring up difficult conversations for families about race, racism
Protesters bring up difficult conversations for families about race, racism

ORLANDO, Fla. – The death of George Floyd in Minnesota after his arrest by four officers in Minneapolis, one of whom has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, is making headlines right now.

The incident has once again generated conversations about race and racism in America.

“It concerns me every time that he steps out or he drives,” Ruth Quiñones, a mother to a 16-year-old son said. “My concern is more how is he going to protect himself outside if he does get stopped.”

Quiñones said her son, Jadrien, has been told what to do or how to react if he’s approached by law enforcement.

It’s a similar story for James Smith, who has an 18-year-old son. James Smith said his son was four years old when he had to tell his boy what to do after they were pulled over by an officer while the family was driving from Alabama to Florida on a back road.

“I had to tell him and his sister, keep your hands visible at all times. He was four and he really couldn’t understand why,” James Smith said. “Those are very difficult, you know, talks to have because we want to put off as long as possible having some of these difficult discussions about race with your children.”

After Floyd’s death, which was caught on cellphone video, civilians in cities across the nation have raised their voices against police brutality. The incident has sparked anger and protests and has served as a reminder for African-American families about the type of conversations they need to have with their children.

“When you see a video like this it makes me have to deal with, you know, things that are the opposite of hope and opportunity -- things like pessimism and fear. Honestly, as a father, I fear for my son," James Smith said. "I fear for him because he is a young black male and it doesn’t matter income, it doesn’t matter zip code.”

For Smith’s son, it’s a moment he said has caused him uncertainty.

“At this point when do we say enough is enough? It’s really unfortunate that it took a man dying for this conversation to come up again,” Jordan Smith said. “Hopefully this doesn’t stay as a cycle, and then in about four weeks later we just return to our normal lives and just forget that it happened.”

When it comes to talking to children about the current state of the nation with protests turning violent, Dr. Katria Jenkins from Embrace Families said it’s important parents stay mindful about the emotions going around.

“When your children are asking questions about what’s going on in the world and why are people so angry, and about racism you really, I think at first, need to listen,” Jenkins said. “If they’re sad, if they’re angry, whatever those emotions are you really need to listen and acknowledge and validate how they’re feeling, and then talk them through. Tell them what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Jenkins counsels children and families for the nonprofit organization Embrace Families. She said it’s also important to avoid showing them your emotions of fear and anger because children lead by example.

“It’s very important as parents, as adults in general, for us to regulate our own emotions. Because kids are always watching us,” she said.

Jenkins added that when your young child starts to ask about the difference in skin complexion, parents should try to make the conversation fun and creative, maybe using crayons as a way to explain everyone's difference in skin color.

"Just think of it in that sense, that difference in color is fine. That's what makes us special, that's what makes us unique and when we all come together it's a beautiful picture," Jenkins said. "It's important to say people are different colors, different shades of colors but they're all special."

For Julie Montione, she said it’s also about researching and learning how to expose your kids to other cultures.

"I want my daughter to be an ally in making this world better and that means she needs to know the truth of what's happening," she said.

Montione’s hope is her 11-year-old daughter understands the difference she can make if she’s educated.

“I want her to know that her friends who are a person of color are going to have different experiences than she will and she needs to look out for them,” she said.

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.