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How to talk about what happened in Charlottesville with your kids

I wish I could say I was surprised by the events that transpired in Charlottesville, but sadly I’m not.


On Saturday, August 12, 2017, the Virginia town—home to the University of Virginia—became a headline and a hashtag virtually overnight. White nationalists, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists gathered in the town to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. What followed were violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters, including a brutal car crash that left one person dead and 19 injured. First-person accounts, along with photos and videos, detailed the horrifying scene.

Beyond the violence, Charlottesville was filled with symbols of hate, from Nazi symbols to the Confederate flag. With each update, I was more disturbed and disheartened.

As a 35-year-old Black woman, I’ve lived through my fair share of racial strife in the United States. But it wasn’t until I became pregnant with my baby girl that I started to think about how I wanted to teach my future children about race in America.

Over the past few years, several events have prompted me to think about how I would talk about race and current events with my future children; most notably, the death of Philando Castile, which happened just 10 miles from the home I share with my husband and daughter.

As a mother, my first instinct is to protect my children, but I know that raising Black children in America means that I have to also prepare them for life in the real world, which includes discussions of race and racism.

I was raised in a pro-Black home, taught to love my history and heritage. Through my adulthood I’ve experienced racism (both overt and covert), but the lessons from my childhood continued to resonate with me. My husband and I plan to raise our 7-month-old the same way: to love her Blackness and take pride in it.

We also want to instill in her a respect for all people, and we plan to provide her with opportunities to interact with all types of people, diverse in color, culture and religion.

My baby girl is too young for a conversation about Charlottesville—but I can only imagine the types of questions I’d get if she were 7 years old instead of 7 months old. I have many older children in my tribe—a tribe made up of family, other children of color and also the children of allies—and I know at some point we’ll have to discuss the events in Charlottesville.

Here’s my game plan for how I’ll answer their questions and ease their fears:

Share a high-level and age-appropriate version of the truth

A 5-year-old isn't going to understand the history of racism in this country, but simply saying "some people don't like other people" isn't enough. We owe it to our children to tell them the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. There are people in the world who hate others because of their skin color, religion or nation of origin. It’s our duty as parents to prepare our children for the real world. Sharing the truth helps build trust with your child, as they’ll know they can come to you to answer the hard questions with honesty.

This conversation can be difficult if you yourself don’t feel prepared, but there are resources available, such as Raising Race Conscious Children, an organization that hosts workshops and provides strategies to parents for talking to young children about race. In this conversation, allow your child to ask questions. Your child’s questions can also be a great segue into learning about the history of civil rights in the United States, social justice or other topics.

Let them know they’re safe

Graphic photos of the violence at Charlottesville have dominated the news and social media these past few days, and your child may have seen them. Even overhearing conversations about the event could spark your children to question their safety, or the safety of their friends. Reassure them as much as you can that they are safe—remind them that it’s a parent’s job to protect them—and instruct them on what to do (such as find a police officer or other adult) if there’s an emergency or some type of violence.

Talk about what you can do together

If your family is able, use this as an opportunity to explore ways you can make an impact in your community. Marching in rallies isn’t for every family, and that’s OK. Check out community events or groups that will allow your child to interact with different types of people. Organizations such as the Points of Light’s HandsOn Network host volunteer opportunities for all ages in a variety of locations.

Head to your local library to check out books related to the civil rights movement or current events. For younger kids, read picture books about different cultures, like Let’s Talk About Race or Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story. For older kids, encourage them to check out young adult fiction or nonfiction to help broaden their learning.

Keep talking

The events at Charlottesville aren't isolated and the conversation shouldn't be either. Children learn by our example, so it’s incumbent on us parents to incorporate lessons about diversity as we teach our children. Books, movies, community events are all great ways to keep the topic current for your kids. Even a simple dinner out to an ethnic restaurant can be an opportunity to get your kids thinking and learning about other cultures.

Buzzfeed Parents produced an excellent video and companion piece that outlined why parents should talk to their kids about race, which is a great starting point for parents who have been apprehensive.

While this past weekend in Charlottesville was an ugly incident, it’s also a learning opportunity—not only for our children, but for us as well. We have the ability to shape them into the adults we want them to be and it starts with honest communication and dialogue.

Although I’m saddened and disappointed that such an event could take place in 2017, I’m encouraged that so many people have stepped forward to denounce and reject the messages of hate.

This is also a wake-up call for me to be more active in my community and more deliberate in the messages I give to my child and the other children in my tribe. We have an opportunity to shape the future into the type of place that’s welcoming to all. And that starts with what we share and teach our children now, especially after an event like Charlottesville.

I’m up for the challenge and I hope you are, too.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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