In this time of COVID-19 closures and the resulting spotlight on the once hidden inequities, we are being asked to work together as a global community. How can we include our children in these conversations? How can we help them understand the idea of social justice? We asked our friend, Brionna Nomi, to share some ideas and resources to guide these sometimes tough conservations.
While we are living in a moment of great uncertainty, there is one thing that remains almost certain—when we finally emerge from our self-isolation, send our kids out into the neighborhood to be reunited with their friends, when students reenter their school buildings, and when the world picks up where we left off, much will have changed. Our kids will have been home for months, physically and socially distanced from their peers, missing their friends, not knowing when they’d see them again. Google Classroom, FaceTime, and Zoom will have replaced morning meetings on the carpet in schools. Playgrounds and other public places where people would normally gather will have been caution-taped-off and closed through the beautiful Spring season. Many of our kids, like my four-year old son, will have stopped asking questions like, “Why can’t I play at my friend’s house?” or “Why can’t I scooter with my cousin?” These innocent questions serve as gentle reminders that what we are all missing in this moment is a sense of connection.
This connection that we miss so dearly cannot be overcome virtually, despite our best efforts. The deep connections that we want for ourselves and our kids is something that will undoubtedly take both time and work to reestablish after COVID-19. With slight anxiety about confronting this reality, I am trying instead to focus on how the stay-at-home executive order is providing me with more time to talk with my son during breakfast and on our leisurely walks, when I used to feel pressure to run off to my next meeting before our conversations were finished. I have given myself space to slow down and am constantly reminding myself how important these conversations are, both the imaginative, funny ones and the heavier, more complicated ones.
Particularly in this moment, when social inequities are being highlighted all over the media, I can’t help but think about how important it is for us to be having social justice conversations with our kids. I have stopped worrying that I am burdening my son with issues and realities that may be considered too intense for someone his age—although some things fly over his head, obviously—and I encourage you to do so as well. It may be daunting to think about these types of conversations with kids, but I invite you to try it out. As a teacher, I came across resources that helped me not only develop a more informed understanding of the world, but also equipped me to talk to young people about a wide range of social justice issues. There are articles, videos, picture books, and literal lesson plans out there to support conversations that in the end will help us all more thoughtfully consider and value the connections we have to one another.
Here are a handful of social justice resources that I have found to be helpful over the years. I am sure that there are others out there, so please explore them, use them, and share them!
Our kids, like all of us, are processing this crisis as best they can, possibly wrapping their heads around it as well as us parents have. We have both a responsibility and an opportunity to support our young people through this moment so that when they go back out into the world, they are equipped to change it for the better, grounded in the understanding of how we are all connected.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge how my privilege provides me with both the time and space to have these conversations with my son. This pandemic has brought into focus—for many people—societal inequities that have persisted, and been ignored, for far too long. In this moment, when we are literally being ordered to isolate, and retreat into the comfort of our own dwellings, it may be easy to tune out what is happening around us. However, it is up to us not to ignore these issues, but rather to engage in these conversations with our kids so that they understand that we are all part of something bigger than our individual circumstances, so that they see the power in our connection.
Brionna Nomi is a community organizer in Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city, and other cities, with her husband, Mickael, and their son, Maverick.