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When the news is scary, here’s how I care for my kids’ hearts and minds as a Black mom

Talk with them, not at them. Make this a conversation they want to participate in—and further it with everyone in their lives as they grow.

caring for black childrens mental health

In these stressful and challenging times, children need help coping with their emotions, especially Black children. They may see protests on the news, upset parents, and wonder how to make sense of it all. Some are even attending peaceful protests.

For toddlers and young children, common behavioral problems arise when they don't have the skills to assess what they're thinking, how they're feeling or the impact these thoughts and feelings are having on how they behave. It's up to parents to care for their children's mental and emotional health, especially when the news cycle is scary—or when we're having one of many necessary conversations about race.

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Black parents' race conversations with their kids are wide-ranging—we talk about our own family, but also white people and other facets of life. We explain. We educate. We sigh with frustration. And then we send our kids back into the world and wait for the next race conversation. Race weighs heavily on Black parents' minds.

Here are tips I've learned while raising four children and caring for their mental and emotional health while teaching them about race:

Acknowledge what you are feeling first as a parent.

Know what you are feeling and why you feel the way you do. Be clear on the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing and what those thoughts and feelings mean to you.

In the heat of the moment, it's difficult to navigate your emotions and the emotions of your child. So when you have a moment to yourself, think through how you feel about race. Construct your narrative. Then tell your children your stories in age-appropriate ways. The more you are aware and can name your emotions, the better you will be at expressing them in race conversations.

Have age-appropriate conversations with your children about what they are feeling and thinking.

Even when they are very young, they can still pick up on the feelings of others. Children as young as two experience complex and deep emotions such as empathy or frustration. They just can't express it. By asking kids what they are thinking and feeling, parents help them build a thought and emotion framework that will give them the tools they need for a lifetime.

Talk about race often.

Of course, our children know they are Black, but too many times their friends, teachers, school administrators, other parents and society at large look at their Blackness through a stereotyped lens. We need to give our kids the correct perspective through which to view their race. Black is beautiful! Our kids need to know their worth, value and power from the time they come into the world. So have conversations about race in the safety of your home so that your kids can grow up in an environment in which they are celebrated and loved. Tell your children how beautiful, and smart and powerful they are!

Enlist the support of your village.

For hundreds of years, Black folk have had to have race conversations. Being in America demanded it. Our Big Mamas, Aunties, and Play Cousins have all had an integral part in helping us raise our kids. Don't fight alone. Enlist the help of your parents, grandparents and the community in order to help educate your children about race and race issues. Your children need to hear from you, their elders, and others about what it means to be Black in America. You don't have to do this alone.

One of the most important things to remember and make an impact on your child's mental and emotional health is to talk with them, not at them. Make this a conversation they want to participate in—and further it with everyone in their lives as they grow.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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