Talking to your children about race and anxiety

How to Bring up Culture & Diversity with your children:

During this uncertain times, not only with the pandemic, but now with the social unrest- it is extremely important for parents to help make sense of it all with their children.  It’s never too early to start talking about culture and diversity with our little ones.  Babies begin to absorb information about race at surprisingly young ages.  Our little ones also notice more than we often think, and in this moment we’re in, much filters down to them on so many levels.  It can be very overwhelming to know how to say something- but it can be said and not said in many different ways.  For those with babies and toddlers, it’s important to seek out books whose main characters are of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and expose our little ones to a wide variety of stories (such as abilities, differences, etc).  Their dolls and toys (such as figurines, superheroes, baby dolls) can be just as diverse to expose our little ones that these differences and similarities are all around us, make us who we are, and make us strong.  For older children, such as age 5, reading and openly talking about cultural diversity, race, and inequality is key.  I’ve linked Instagram accounts and resources that will help facilitate these conversations and discussions for parents:

How to see signs of anxiety with your children during this time:

Anxiety is seen in many different ways in our children, but some behaviors to pay attention to would be:  More behavioral outbursts- clinginess, meltdowns, sibling rivalries- are normal behaviors as we are all adjusting to this. These are “typical” during these times.  However, worries and anxiety may be excessive if you see your child washing their hands repeatedly (more than they need to), or counting how far people are away from one another, or fearing how clean areas may be when they’re at home (worrying If the germ is anywhere near or around them that constantly needs to be cleaned).  Those are excessive symptoms of anxiety to look for.  If you see more withdrawn, isolated, irritable outbursts, these are important to look for and may be depressive symptoms as well. 

 

How, as parents, to cope and be kind to ourselves during this time:

The COVID-19 pandemic and our current social situation has shaken all of us up, regardless of our age.  As parents, we are typically informed by past experiences in helping our children navigate through difficult times.  In helping our child, we can usually remember having had a similar experience as a younger person, or at least being able to draw upon some analogous experience.  These past experiences that we can tap into, whether appreciated by our children or not, is part of the accumulated wisdom we, as parents, can share with our children.

Parents have also suddenly become their children’s teachers, trying to homeschool effectively while continuing to maintain their own work and home schedules. There is so much asked of us, and what will help is to release the expectations of what needs to be done and rather focus on what can be done, what will keep my family calm and happy for our day. The mantra we tell ourselves will also become our inner voice and lead our day, just as the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. Do not put too much emphasis and pressure on trying to get it all done, what gets done, is enough. And, that is perfectly fine. Right now, we urge you to build your child’s resilience during this quarantine time and strategies that build their inner strength and confidence, which will help in maintaining the overall peace and mindset of your family.

Written by Mary Goodarzi, Psy.D. Post-Doctoral Fellow
 Website: https://c4l.net/team/mary-goodarzi/

 

Biography: 

Dr. Goodarzi obtained her undergraduate degree from UC Irvine, a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, and her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA (APA accredited). She then completed an APA accredited pre-doctoral internship program in clinical psychology at Providence St. John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, CA, where she specialized in treatment for children and families, and groups within elementary, middle, and high schools. Dr. Goodarzi is also highly trained in comprehensive neurodevelopmental assessments and empirically supported treatment for children. She has also published work with social skills in school-aged children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with UCLA Peers and The Help Group, a yoga study for children with Cedars-Sinai and The Help Group, as well as presenting a handful of posters at different conferences. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow, specializing her training in neuropsychological assessments, ADHD and neurodevelopmental disorders, and parent guidance.