The #EndSARS protest revealed a lot of things and one of such was the importance of knowing how to talk to kids about protests.
When the protest started, I was all psyched up and the only time I thought about the effect it was having on kids, was when my boss couldn’t pick up her child from school.
The traffic was mad and she had to find someone nearer to her child’s school to help pick the child up.
However, it took me participating in one of the protests to feel their confusion and fear. Children were coming back from school and a lot of persons were on the roads, holding placards and singing.
You could tell from mere looking at them that they didn’t understand what was going on. Many had never seen an actual live protest and some had parents who weren’t quite sure how to approach the topic.
Now, let’s learn how to talk to kids about protests.
Let’s Start With The Basics
This article covers different approaches which are based on different age groups. However, the basics are what should kickstart the conversation regardless of how old your child is.
So, before we check out the age-group guide, let’s start with the basics on how to talk to kids about protests.
Be very specific about your goals and expectations. What do you hope to achieve after the talk?
Do you want them to understand what’s going on?
Do you want to help allay their fears and create a safer environment for them?
Or perhaps, correct the wrong information or impression they have about it?
Of course, these are all things you should be aiming to achieve after the talk. And if done right, you would have all of these boxes and more ticked.
With your objectives in check, then you can move on to asking them about what they think about the current situation. Find out what they know so far about it, regardless of if it’s right or wrong. Then, ask them how they feel about it.
Though this focuses on how to explain peaceful protests to kids, these tips also work for civil, social, or political unrest of any form. Plus, it can serve as a good opportunity to address other issues like anger or violence.
Your objectives should hover around answering (or allaying) their questions, fears, worries, and confusion.
If the situation is stressing everyone out, then you should also help them unwind and feel relaxed.
Tips On How To Talk To Kids About Protests – For All Ages
Consider your child’s age and level of maturity
Remember, you’re bringing the protest down to your child’s level. You aren’t bringing your child up to the protest’s level, hence why you must consider your child’s level of maturity as well.
Children especially those below 6 should be protected from scary conversations about the protest. This is mostly important for volatile protests or riots.
In the case of riots or gory civil unrest, do not let them watch gory videos circulating.
Use an illustration
You should ensure that they understand the essence of protests – standing up against wrongs of any form. And one of the best ways to drive home this point is to use an age-appropriate and relatable illustration.
Your illustration should have a structured system that can represent the “government”, and it should be something they can connect with.
For example, you could use bullying in the school system. Think of Evbu, a 7-year-old who’s constantly being bullied by one of the school’s prefects. Evbu reports to the school authorities but they only let the bully go with a warning that doesn’t stop her from bullying Evbu again!
Now, if Evbu and the others being bullied want the school authority to punish these bullies, then they’ll have to make a firm stance and a protest is one of the ways they can do that.
Add a school library ish or clubs being banned from school.
There are tons of other scenarios you can use such as the unjust ban of school clubs.
For Kids Aged 5 And Below
Start by asking them how they feel and if they have any questions. If they have a question about the topic, then listen to them because this will give you an idea about how much they know, and how this might be influencing them emotionally.
Listen as they talk to you. Don’t get distracted while they talk – listen, and make mental notes on points to address if there’s any.
Then, acknowledge their feelings. Remember, you asked them earlier about how they feel, and now, is the time to let them know you heard them loud and clear.
Most kids in this age range won’t be able to accurately describe how they feel, and that’s why you should pay attention to other cues such as body language and tone of voice.
Acknowledge their feelings and share yours as well. But, not in a way that heightens their fears, confusion, or worries.
You, sharing your feelings should help to bond and reassure the child that’s it’s okay to be scared, confused, or whatever it is they are feeling – create a safe space by leveraging on the situation.
What’s left? Explain what’s going on. Since they’re young, there’s no need to dump every info on them – no information overload!!!
Share the facts and basic info. Also, educate them on why protests should be peaceful as well. Try to be objective as much as you can, especially if the protest in question is such that you have to pick sides.
At the end of the conversation, you can check in with the child to ensure that they fully understand and that they feel safe.
For Kids Aged 6 To 10
Just like with kids aged 5 and below, start by asking them what they know and how they feel. Unlike the previous age group that might not have had more to say, this age group will surely do.
Pay rapt attention to them as they talk, listen to their unsaid words, and unexpressed emotions. Pay attention to body cues, listen, and make mental notes of points to address.
Acknowledge their feelings as well, and then go on to explain what’s going on. Share the details of the protest (or any other situation it may be).
Keep it simple and short KISS – the situation should be levelled down to their understanding, not the other way round.
Take it a step further and use it as an opportunity to talk about the need to stand up against unfair or unjust acts, and why it must be done peacefully.
To drive your point home, use a relatable illustration – see ideas on some of the illustrations you can use above.
Help them understand that not all police officers or law enforcement agents are violent or corrupt. And why those who do not truly protect and serve the people should be punished.
Also, chip in that tolerating unjust acts only makes the oppressor more powerful to deal with. But it’s never too late to stand up for what’s true, right, and just.
Last, in this age group, be careful not to project your anger or fear in your child. The goal is to provide clarity and safety, not to inspire fear and chaos.
For Preteens And Teens
Finally, it’s time for preteens and teens. But not to worry, they don’t bite, at least the preteens and teens I talked with using these tips didn’t bite.
With this age group, knowing how to talk to kids about protests is even more delicate. Besides, if you don’t do it, someone else will. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll do it right.
Start by asking what they know and how they feel. Moreover, they’ve most likely had discussions about the topic with their friends as well.
That also means they might have been exposed to a few wrong pieces of information as well, all of which is your responsibility to correct.
While they talk, make mental notes about what to address and focus on. Listen and acknowledge their feelings, then, explain the situation to them.
Keep it simple and short, but be more detailed. Answer their questions if they have any as best as you can.
Like the previous age group, talk about the reason for the protest (civil unrest or any other situation), and why protests should be peaceful.
Connect with them, hear what they think about the situation after explaining it to them. Allow them to share their opinions about the topic at hand.
You can also discuss ways they can contribute to the good fight. It could be by educating others and if you’re using an illustration such as the banning of school clubs, then a good way to contribute would be to write a letter to the school authority or rally up the support of the PTA.
Encourage a good conversation, one where both parties share ideas and opinions.
As always, end the talk on a positive note.
Knowing how to talk to kids about protests, riots, civil unrest, insecurity, or any such related scenarios, isn’t easy. And living in such times isn’t easy as well.
However, the focus should be on making your kids and any kid around you feel safe. Inspire hope and let them fully understand the situation.
If you’re not sure how to have an open conversation in which they feel heard and understood, then see this!
Love and light.