Uncomfortable conversations with children about social issues can arise anywhere. Whether it’s in the car, in a classroom or some other location, we can either choose to provide a constructive response, redirect due to discomfort, or ignore the conversation altogether. I choose to do my best to facilitate a constructive response, often with a lot of uncertainty. Fortunately, my experiences as a teacher, researcher, and father have provided me with a wealth of resources and information. This page offers stories and shares information that can help you provide a constructive response. I welcome you to contribute your experiences and thoughts on the contact page.
Several months ago a colleague of my wife tragically died by suicide. My wife and I talked about it a few times, but the conversations were brief, especially around the children. However, we were aware that they heard some of our dialogue. Nonetheless, neither asked for more information…at the time.
Death is something we have discussed with our seven-year-old countless times. It became a regular topic of conversation after watching the children’s movies The Book of Life and Coco, which both have a narrative based on the afterlife. But we have never talked about death in the context of suicide…that is until a month or so ago. Continue reading →
This morning my daughter asked, seemingly out of nowhere and initially rhetorically, “Why weren’t the Native American people and Europeans friends? Was it because the Native American people didn’t get to know one another and the Europeans discriminated?” She went on attempting to make sense of her question on her own. “But John Smith and Pocahontas were friends because John Smith got to know Pocahontas’ identity. Right?”
Admittedly, I said, “I can’t remember Pocahontas very well.” Shamefully continuing, “I haven’t watched it with you, but I do remember a little and it is much like other movies and stories. In many, but not all cases, the European colonialists came to the Americas for the land and natural resources like gold. Stories like Pocahontas and other historical people are whitewashed which means the white people with power and influence told their side of the story. Their stories make them look good to other white people and most other people who don’t question the way stories are told. The stories are changed to help people believe that white people are better than everyone else.” Continue reading →
Since our children were infants, we have always talked about human sexuality bluntly. We refer to body parts using the anatomically correct name, we don’t hide or shame the early sexual curiosity, and babies do not come from storks. Of course, at six years old when my oldest asked, “Daddy, I know babies grow inside their mommies belly and come out of their mommy’s vagina, but how do they get in there?” I turned flush red and surprised the children with the news that mommy was coming home with donuts. I was very relieved that she forgot she asked the question…especially since that is very, very unusual. She has not asked since…but when she does, I’m a little more prepared, because I know it is critical to talk about sex when children are young. However, when she asked me about child sex trafficking, I was not prepared.
“Daddy, why are the white people so rude to Sylvia’s family?”
My initial thought was, “that’s an easy one. We’ve talked about racism and discrimination so many times. I can reference back to many of our previous conversations.” However, the answer that came out of my mouth was a little more nuanced than usual. “Because Sylvia’s family does not like what is normal for their school district.”
As I moved throughout the rest of my evening, and for several months to follow, I asked myself, “what is normal?” My goal was to advance Addi and my conversations about prejudice, discrimination and inclusion as well as develop a better understanding of the social world she/we live in?
What unfolded over time was the creation of the Cycle of Normal…and a daughter who is more aware of prejudice and discrimination.
My daughter discovered a new weapon in her arsenal of language. Sister, you’re an idiot! Daddy, don’t be an idiot! Mommy’s an idiot!
Several years back, a good friend of mine introduced me to the terms “teeth and claws words.” These are the words that can hurt people. That worked great until my daughter began hearing cuss words tossed around on the school playground this year. Continue reading →
My daughter’s favorite book for the past two months has been “For the right to learn: Malala Yousafzai’s story.” So it wasn’t all that surprising when, on our way to the grocery store this afternoon she asked, “Do all Muslim women have to wear a hijab?” Continue reading →
I was at my favorite bookstore a couple weeks back when I was introduced to the book, “I have the right to be a child.” This book is an amazing conversation starter…and awesome to reference right before a tantrum. I now reference it more often than “Have you filled a bucket.” It became particularly handy this afternoon when the children were begging to eat dinner at Chipotle. Continue reading →
Daddy, what’s an opioid overdose? Sweetie, that’s another great question that we’ve never really talked about. Like many of the other great question you have, I don’t have a perfect answer and if you ask other people, they may disagree with me. If my answer doesn’t make sense or we feel we need more information, I will find someone else who can help us.
First in a three part blog series on social justice by Dr. Andrew Goff…because #OurKidsAreListening.
Last January, my six-year-old daughter Addi and I were driving home from the grocery store when I encountered a new phase of my life as a father. I was busy thinking about dinner with public radio quietly playing in the background. Suddenly, she asked, “Why would they want to build a wall? Will we still be able to see Vito (great grandfather in Juarez, Mexico)?”
Pause five seconds…boarder? Wait, what?…I didn’t turn off the radio when the news came on!…deep breath in… “That’s a very good question sweetie, let’s talk about that as soon as we get home.”
Daddy, what is mental illness?…well sweetie, like all of the other amazing questions you ask me, the answer is not easy for me to explain. Can you let me think about it for a little while? I won’t have a great answer, but I’ll try my best… Continue reading →