How parents can help kids understand the protests and fight racism

Dr. Janet Taylor shares advice with parents who may be struggling to talk about racism and the unrest that has erupted after the death of George Floyd.
8:13 | 06/01/20

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Transcript for How parents can help kids understand the protests and fight racism
going to have a segment now on how to talk to our kids. So important, George. It's already been such a challenging year for everyone including parents dealing with the pandemic, the economic fallout and now the death of George Floyd has ignited intense protests as we see all across the country. Deborah Roberts talked to some parents about their concerns about how to talk to their kids right now. Good morning, deb. Reporter: Hey there, robin. So many of us as parents have to take a depth breathe right now. It almost feels emotional just talking about it. So many of us just grappling, trying to figure out how to talk to our kids about what's unfolding in front of them, particularly those of us with black sons. I spoke with one mom who says she's never felt more powerless in trying to assure her sons that they're safe at this moment. This is leaving us feeling more vulnerable than ever before. Like many parents I'm talking with my 17-year-old son Nick about the sickening events around the country and what it means for him as a black teenager. Are you worried, are you scared, what are your thoughts? Oh, I'm a little worried. Yeah? Because if I go to the city they might take me down and try to, you know, hurt me. Reporter: Those words rip at my heart, my son fearful for his safety, yet not surprising with images like this of George Floyd's agonizing death, angry protests, and hostile riots. Sarah Smith, a mom of three black children in a predominantly white community, worries for her sons. I'm scared for my son every single day that he leaves our house because I don't know what could happen to him. They want to be visible with this protest. Reporter: A protest unfolding outside her window leaving 10-year-old delay Sha with questions and emotions. I think it was very important for her to not only just read about things and not only just hear things in theory but to really be able to visualize and see and understand. Reporter: Parents everywhere searching for words, and not just parents of color. The conversation that we're having in our home, honestly, have been a little bit strained. We are sort of grappling with how much to really tell them about and talk to them about. Reporter: Author and psychologist Beverley Tatum who writes about race says open and honest conversations are necessary. It is important to say conversation doesn't solve it by itself, but conversation certainly with children helps them make sense of the world. Reporter: Sociologist Margaret Hagerman offering ideas for non black parents to open In order to understand the president we have to understand the past, and it might mean that you don't know all the answers and you don't feel confident even talking about this with your children, but that means that you can do some work to learn the answers to these questions. You can take the time to read up on this, and this could even be something that you do with your children. Reporter: The Zimmerman family making a decision to live in a community that prioritizes racial equality. I think we have to start realizing that this isn't about us. It's actually about getting rid of this huge blind spot within our society, that there is still systemic racism. Reporter: Conversations that are not new in my home or others like the Smiths. We have to have these conversations every single day because they are African-American living in America right now. You're my guy and I want you to be safe and I love you and I don't want anything to happen to you. Reporter: Robin, I think for so long parents of children of color have felt that we've been mandated to have these discussions but the truth is we have all got to talk. If we're going to be allies in this as parents, and as the experts say, the conversations may not be easy. You may stumble. You may be inelegant. Learn, read, get some instruction on how to talk to your children because silence, the experts say, is corrosive. You can't be silent on this issue. No, you cannot. And you can't be color blind either. I know people mean well when they say I don't see color. It's like, no, it's okay, and to talk to your kids about that. Don't you agree? I totally agree. In fact, the experts say the idea of raising color blind children does not work, robin. We want them to see race and to process it and to being loving about the way they deal with it. That's right. As loving as Nick was with that big hug for his mom right there. That was sweet to see. All right, deb, thank you. You take care. You take care. Psychiatrist, Dr. Janet Taylor is joining us now. Good morning. Good morning. I don't have to tell you all that is going on in the world right now for parents to have to deal with this, so how do they handle it with their children right now, Janet? Well, it's recognizing, as you showed, that our children may not be on the front lines but they're still feeling the same pain, the pandemic, the disruption, feeling the anxiety that we feel, seeing people who have died and the protests. They're afraid of the police which we don't want our children to be, and also, unfortunately, probably hearing some comments in our home. So, it's really important that, as you mentioned, communication is key. Now is the time to talk up and explain, talk to our children about anxiety that we are feeling which they are feeling as well, and teach them how to resolve that, how to soothe themselves because what we don't want is our children to associate their anxiety with the images that they're seeing on the TV. And how do you explain the protests though to your children, Janet? You tell the truth. You say their names, George Floyd, ahmaud arbery, breonna Taylor. All black people, one jogging, killed by the police. People want justice and change and there are peaceful ways to do that. It's an opportunity, when you have conflict, to teach how to speak up and do the right thing instead of inflicting more pain. Does it help when you see -- it's kind of like -- oh gosh, what am I trying to say? An array of different colors that we're seeing in these protests, that it's not just black and brown faces. Does that help you as a parent to be able to explain to your children the injustice and how it is affecting all people in this country? Absolutely. The human genome project has taught us that 98.9% of our DNA is all the same and what we need to do is celebrate the differences so you can point out the differences in skin color, hair texture, things that our kids know anyway, but as you mentioned so many people don't even know how to say the words black, African-American, and will say we're all the same. We need to celebrate differences and we fled to point to the fact that we can come together and make a difference. Black people cannot be the only ones teaching Americans about racism. It's a combined effort. You're a mother of four. What's the age to start talking to your kids about race? So, the age is now. It's birth. Look at mommy and me get-togethers. Look at play dates. People need to look around and see how diverse are those play dates. As important as it is to talk about racism, our children is not born racist. That is something that develops based on what they hear, what they see, and so it's really important that we teach our children as early as possible to be allies, to stand side by side with their classmates, stand side by side by your playmates. Speak up when you see someone who's not invited to a birthday party and to support. We can teach that at birth by examples as parents. Never too early to start, I would imagine. All right, Janet. Hope that you and your family are doing well down in Florida.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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