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.
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.