Do your children follow the news? And do you discuss it with them?

The recent news about the tragic death of George Floyd and the successive, powerful growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has made a deep impression on me, our family, our city, our country, our world. A change so profound has been set in motion, in me personally, and in many, many people I know or follow. A wave is forming, and with enough people diving in and learning to swim (capable swimming teachers are available), that wave is becoming so extensive and so powerful that everyone who chooses not to dive in and do the work, will be swept away by it and, sorry not sorry, drown. (For people who are willing to learn but can’t swim very well yet, I feel that floaties are acceptable.)

Earlier this week, I was talking to our friend and contributor Vanessa and we were discussing the recent events. Vanessa is working on a post on great, diverse books for teenagers, and from one thought to the other we were talking about how incredibly informed and involved our children already are. One of the reasons is social media — Sara and Pim have an account and although they are not very active on their own feed, they follow friends but also some great educators and social reformers. And then there’s the newspaper for the smaller children, who do not have a mobile phone yet.

Here in The Netherlands, there’s publication called ‘KidsWeek’ — a weekly newspaper aimed specifically at children. We’ve been a member for years, and all of our children read that little newspaper entirely and it often makes for interesting conversations and discussions at the dinner table. (We also have a subscription to a weekend edition of the local Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool, because Sara and Pim are now interested in adult news. I’ve been toying with the idea of subscribing to the weekend edition of The Guardian as well, to offer a more international perspective.) Vanessa told me that also in the UK, a kids’ newspaper exist, The Week Junior. (Emilie’s girls in Paris have a membership to ‘Le Monde des Ado’, which is a similar thing.)

I have written before that I like to have open and honest conversations with our children. For example, we have started the conversation about sex early enough to be able to talk about issues like menstruation, the physical changes of puberty and a wider spectrum of sexuality comfortably, and without difficulty. We have spoken about illness and death without trying to hide it from our children, however small they were at the time.

With the news, it is no different. We don’t shield them from it. We discuss it, explaining in age appropriate terms what is happening and how it relates to us as a family and to them as an individual. The past week specifically I have been sharing some of my anti-racial learnings — explaining to them that as white people, they will not face the bias and difficulties that our black friends and friends of colour do, which is unjust and which needs to change. And how that change starts with us. We have been talking about inclusivity. Standing up for injustice. Be compassionate. Sara came to the anti-racism demonstration here in Amsterdam with me. Ava is designing flyers with her friends at school.

I feel that because they read the news and we discuss it as a family, they start to understand the world and its system’s injustices better and the discussions we have as a family can help them form a perspective and become a well informed, empathic human being. Also — they, in their turn, help and encourage me to do so! Children often have great insight.

As always, your ideas and comments are appreciated here.

xxx Esther

PS Photo of Sara — the two of us on our way to the Anti-Racism demonstration. What a beautiful experience to witness and be part of.


Comments (8)

June 11, 2020

Thank you for sharing this! My kids are so small still, but I grew up in a family where we frequently discussed the news, and still do! There was no social media back then, but I really liked our newspaper subscriptions. For my 6 year old, a kid’s newspaper would be such a good idea! But I haven’t heard of one in Germany. Will research it though! Hurray for you and Sara protesting!! What an incredible thing to share with your child. Thanks for all your posts, also on Instagram. So appreciated! We all have so much to learn (and to surf!).

June 18, 2020

June 11, 2020

I found the degree of racism that was normalized in the Netherlands quite shocking to Canadian ears… Zwarte Piet obviously but also things like people casually referring to “white” or “mixed ” schools or the way there’s a separate word in Dutch for people who are Dutch citizens but have another ethnic origin. I hope a lot of the conversations raised in your news are local rather than American focused. Certainly I have been trying to ensure we have conversations in our family focused on what we need to improve in Canada which is rather different to the problems in the USA even though there’s overlap and the root of the problem being systemic rather than individual is present in both countries. I hope we will look back on this as a huge societal turning point. Certainly I have learned more (and unlearned some things from my childhood that seemed positive but weren’t helpful).

June 12, 2020

Love the article – could you replace coloured with ‘people of colour’?

Esther in Amsterdam
June 12, 2020

Absolutely — I have changed the sentence ‘they will not face the bias and difficulties that our coloured and black friends do’ to ‘they will not face the bias and difficulties that our black friends and friends of colour do’. I’m sorry if my wording caused offence — these are the subtleties that sometimes escape me as a non native English speaker… Thanks for pointing it out to me! xx

June 12, 2020

We do and we don’t. Our oldest is 11. She gets ‘The week’

I was born in Northern Ireland in the 70’s. I am Protestant. We moved to England when I was five after my mother was in a bank that was bombed. I grew up with parents who chose not to talk about the troubles to me. As a result of that, I didn’t know anything about it. They did not have the news on in fact we didn’t have a tv until I was around 9. When I was 10 I remember a child at school
Asking me if my dad was in the IRA. I didn’t even know what the IRA was. As a result of not knowing anything about it , we all had Catholic friends with no thought. My best friend was Catholic and my parents didn’t say anything about it as they too had Catholic friends. They also never discussed race with me or racism and I learned about it at school when we read to kill a mockingbird. One of my best friends at school was a girl from Jamaica who was welcomed into our family like another sibling. My parents may never have talked to me about hate but they showed me love. And I am so so so grateful for that. We live (and have always lived) in troubling times. Childhood is fleeting. If all they see is love all they will know is love. And one thing that I am finding troubling in America right now is the fear of doing or saying something wrong. So I’m doing what my parents did which is not saying much at all other than love is love and we are kind and respectful to everyone regardless of who they are or where they come from. I have seen many women I know of making posts on Instagram that have taken part in obvious racism, and I have seen many women making posts that just aren’t nice women. They aren’t kind or nice. They wouldn’t look up at their market cashier and smile and say thank you. They wouldn’t let your car go in the school parking lot and if you let them go they wouldn’t smile and wave. And they’re posting these posts as though they are the nicest wokest kindest people ever and quite frankly it is making me feel ill. The hypocrisy of it. I will continue to be kind and good and we talk about ruby bridges and mlk and black history when it arises just as we talk about Anne frank and other awful things that have gone on and continue to. But from my childhood experience I know that I appreciated my parents letting me discover the world from the eyes of acceptance and love rather than telling me to

June 12, 2020

I was brought up with a similar approach and it was the messaging we received at school too but the problem is that being passively not racist does nothing to change the status quo. It allows the unjust systems to flourish. While I don’t think it’s our children’s job to fix it, I think it does them no favours to hide that the system is rigged in favour of a small percentage of people and that truly being kind and respectful to BIPOC means dismantling those systems. Of course there is an appropriate level of message at each age, but just being “not racist” individually isn’t enough to change things.

June 12, 2020

Hi Alison. When I have seen (on Instagram people in black face etc) anything racist I have called it out since forever. If anyone makes a questionable joke in front of me or my kids I call them out. Not because of these protests. We have always done that. I have had active conversations with my children’s private schools as to why more black children aren’t at the school
And questioned why scholarship money (we donate $10k annually to a scholarship fund) isn’t being used for local
Black children and is being used for teachers children. My husband is an investor in a jewelry company that is black owned and re invests in black start ups. We have sponsored a child for ten years.. I don’t , of course, need to explain myself To you or anyone but, just like the basket of deplorable comment hurt Hillary in 2016, I would be afraid that the constant patronizing and dismissive way in which women put down other women and accuse them of not doing enough, and the extreme sensitivity is going to hurt the Democrats in the USA. As Michelle Obama wrote in her auto biography she was disappointed in the black turnout for the election. Personally instead of berating well meaning and well intentioned people who are more than entitled to their own decisions and choices on how and if they choose to discuss topics with their children, I would rather focus my attentions on supporting black businesses and voting. As one of my good friends said to me recently she is trying to do better but is nervous to upset anyone. Is this going to help? I have always spoken out so perhaps that’s why my attitude is not to suddenly start doing something I always did. I am also concerned with anti semitism In the states – it’s rampant. We call out hatred and have always done so.

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