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Talking to Your Kids About Protests

5-minute read 

Get tips from our educators on how to talk with children about protests: 
  • Provide background: Let your child know that protests happen all over the world when ordinary people want to help create change and have their voices heard. 
  • Create kid-sized context: Protest issues can be complex, so try to find ways to speak to your child that they can understand and act on. 
  • Listen actively: Let your child lead the discussion with questions and be honest with your answers (even if you don’t have all of them).
We are living in challenging and changing times. Helping your child understand the world around them can be one of the hardest things to do, but it is also one of the most important. To support you and your family, we gathered some tips from our educators on how to talk with children about protests they see on the news or in their own community.

Mom talking to toddler

Provide background 
Let your child know that protests happen all over the world when ordinary people want to make their voices heard and help create change. Protests help advance causes, raise awareness, and influence decision-makers. People protest for all kinds of reasons, like civil rights, environmentalism, or to change laws. Talk with your child about the courage it takes to stand up and make their voice heard. Remind them of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi, and Cesar Chavez, who all advocated for justice and rights by protesting peacefully. Demonstrations are one form of protest, but other forms of protest include boycotts and letter-writing campaigns. 
Create kid-sized context 
This is a valuable time to teach kids that it is fine to disagree with people—and that we can all practice listening to other ideas with respect and seeing things from another’s perspective. You can model this every day by encouraging your child to express their opinions, engaging with their ideas, and showing what respectful disagreement looks like: “I hear you saying you think your bedtime should be later. I disagree, but I respect your opinion.” There will likely be occasions when you or your child may not agree with how or why a protest is happening. These are opportunities to model important critical-thinking and social-emotional skills for our kids by learning about the issue, looking at it from various perspectives, and practicing how to respectfully communicate your opinion with others. 

Explaining the specifics of the issues being protested can be very difficult and may cause concern for kids. One of the most effective ways to channel their concern is by giving your child something they can understand and take action on. For example, if they are worried about the well-being of people in their community, suggest creating a care package to deliver to a shelter or selecting a local organization together that you can donate to.  

Actively listen 
As you start these conversations with your child, let them lead the discussion with their questions so you can provide specific and clear responses that answer exactly what is on their mind. And remember, it’s okay if you don’t know all the answers (it’s actually a great opportunity for you to learn something together!). By supporting and listening to them, you can help your child develop important empathy and self-regulation skills. Talk through the experiences of feeling angry and offer strategies to manage big feelings in healthy ways, like taking deep breaths or sharing your feelings with someone you trust. Through this communication and compassion, we begin to show children that understanding and kindness cultivates a positive culture today and into the future.  
We know there are many more topics you may need support with, so we have resources to help you. Learn about our anti-bias approach to education and explore our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Hub to see how we support you in actively raising anti-racist humans who celebrate the differences in themselves and others. 
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