What do we tell the children?

On election night, CNN commentator Van Jones shared what many parents around the nation were feeling. “. .  You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ You tell your kids, ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ And then you have this outcome. And you have people putting children to bed tonight and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of, ‘How do I explain this to my children?’ . . .”

It’s a tough time in America. Our kids are angry, scared, hurt and confused. They long to talk and ask questions. They need us now more than ever. Around the country, authors, illustrators, librarians, parents and teachers are finding ways to make a difference. Read about some of the efforts in this School Library Journal article. On Monday, we’ll post a declaration signed by dozens of children’s book creators in support of the beautiful young people we serve.

Here, three of our members share what we told our kids:

By Tracey Baptiste

The morning was hard: waking them up, looking into their sleepy faces. When they went to bed, they were so sure what the future would hold. I was about to break their hearts. I traceyheld my son close and told him the election results. The realization dawned on him slowly. He looked shocked and then sad. My daughter, who is older, was angry. “I’m so disappointed in America,” she said. She felt “betrayed.” I let them be upset. They needed it. It was a quiet car ride to their schools. All day I thought about what I would tell them when they got home. But at dismissal, my son cheerfully waved goodbye to the classmate whose family voted differently than we did. My daughter checked the results and happily informed me that Hillary had won the popular vote. They were both optimistic. They already know: be kind; be considerate; use your head; use your words; speak politely; stick to the facts. I was looking for a way to tell them that the world was not over, that they needed to choose love over hate. But they already knew. And they showed me.

By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

I told my daughter first and foremost that I love her, no matter what. That I support her and am committed to raising her in a manner that honours our ancestors and family, by biology and by choice, all across the Diaspora, and offers her the tools and resources she olugbemisolaneeds to be a part of creating a more just world. That her voice is precious, and it matters. To be an upstander, to amplify the voices of the oppressed and marginalized. That sometimes silence speaks loudly, and is powerful. That speaking truth to power in love is never worthless. To love and cherish and care for herself. That she is a child of God, and no one can take that away from her.

I’ll tell her that I love her, no matter what. I will tell her to read, and read widely. To ask questions, and never assume she has all of the answers. To continue to create, to make art, to tell her story. I’ll tell her that no one else can define her. To use her voice in the way she sees fit, and not in the way that others, including me, tell her is the only way to do it. That she has every right to smile, and enjoy who she is. To know that she is not responsible for others’ ignorance or hate, that she can always be respectful without worrying about being nice. That she doesn’t have to smile. To listen, and listen again. I’ll tell her that I love her, no matter what. I will tell her to read, and read widely. To ask questions, and never assume she has all of the answers.

I’ll tell her that I love her, no matter what.

And to the children that I write for, that I meet on book journeys and school visits, I will tell them that I strive to love, honour, and respect them and their stories in my work. I will tell them to read and read widely, that their voices are precious, to tell their stories, to ask questions, to pay attention and to listen, and that I love them too.

By Kelly Starling Lyons

ksl-authorpicWhat do we tell the children? I wrestled with that election night into the morning. I heard my daughter get up and stayed in bed a few minutes longer, trying to collect my thoughts. I walked downstairs, looked into her eyes, full of hurt and questions, and told her that our people survived slavery, the rise of the Klan, Jim Crow and grandfather clauses, lynchings and we will survive this. Our strength and resilience, our hope and faith, our intelligence and ingenuity are legendary. It’s okay to mourn. But then, we mobilize. She said, “Kinda makes me think about that Langston Hughes poem about ‘life ain’t been no crystal stair.’” Made me smile. She gets it. Think about what our folks have been through. It’s not the time to give up. It’s time to stand up, keep climbing and fight.”

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.









5 Responses to What do we tell the children?

  1. brownplaces says:

    I wrote a blog called COPE.
    I think it’ll hel with the children!
    Uplift the children!

  2. Lookwa says:

    After I read “What do we tell the children”, I deeply understand everyone concerned about the American future. At the same time, I think this is a good time to teach our children about democracy. It might sound complicated, but every country has their laws and everyone cannot be above the laws. I will tell my kids that we can be disappointed and sad because our team didn’t win, but more importantly we need to accept the roles. I will tell my kids that every single person is special that why everybody thinks differently. Also, in order to earn the respect from others, we need to give the respect to others first. I will tell my kids that we are American and we proud to be, no matter what happen we will do our best to make this country is the best place to live for more generation to come.

  3. thefolia says:

    Our children are pretty amazing and sometimes more mature and have more foresight than many of our leaders. May they grow up wiser than us.

  4. Paige forte says:

    This post is a wonderful step towards how to talk honestly with our children. I think the election will effect our children but not too much if we don’t let it. Like this post says, colored people have survived the worst of suffings and are still climbing on. We don’t stop just because someone hates what we are or who we are. We keep being ourselves and speaking on what’s wrong. I don’t have any kids just nieces and nephews. I couldn’t imagine explaining to them that some people aren’t going to like you because of your color, I don’t imagine them to understand it because it’s just color to them. Kids don’t discriminate on who they want to play with on the playground until they see it happening form somewhere or someone else. Our kids are the future and we did have to tell them what’s going on so they’re not oblivious. But I don’t want to take heir love and innocence and care for each human being.

  5. Liz Castillo says:

    After reading the blog What Do We Tell The Children? I can relate to the feeling of the parents and children with the results of the recent presidential election. I know this election has been historically very shocking. The majority of people that I know were in favor of Hilary Clinton for different reason and Trump winning the election has left a lot of people including me, very devastated. My five years old son even though he doesn’t understand about politics he was supporting us, and when I told him that Trump was elected for him it was like his team did not win the game and he told me “mom is ok, we can win next time” . In my opinion, the best way to talked to the children is to explain that we are all equal and we need to respect each other. Even if the outcome is not what we taught it would be to always stay positive and hopeful that we can accomplish great things.

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