Family Connection: Resources for Talking to your Child about Immigration and Refugees

 

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When I first started working with kids, I was under the naive assumption that parents and teachers had complete power over the opinions of the children that they work with. “My students will always be kind and patient and tolerant,” I thought, “because that is what I will teach them.” Cute, right? Enter: Reality. Children can’t be forced to think or act a certain way any more than their parental counterparts. They have their own thoughts, ideas, and moral compasses. They are most certainly shaped by their communities and experiences, but even that revelation came to me with a surprise: What we say has nothing to do with it. It is all about what we do.

If we preach patience but snap at each other in front of a class, they will hear it. If we tell them that reading is important but then use our books as an elbow-rest for better texting speed, they will take note. If we teach that people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and backgrounds are important, but only share stories with characters that look and behave a certain way, we are sending a clear message. And if we refuse to bring up or answer questions about issues like immigration and diversity at all, if we block them from our dinner tables and our classrooms, we are speaking volumes.

It can be hard to talk to a young person about dark and difficult topics. I’ve had the

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thought myself – why would I want to weigh this buoyant little heart down with pain and unfairness? But I have learned that if you don’t talk to the young people in your lives about struggles and conflict and pain, it does not mean that that they will live in blissful ignorance of it. It means that you are giving up your right to that teachable moment. You are abdicating that connection, that chance to shape your loved one into the person that you aspire for them to be. And you are leaving it in the hands of the older kid on the playground, the man on talk radio, the anchor on the news, to tell them what is right and wrong. That opportunity is no longer yours.

If you don’t know how to broach with a five year old a topic that confounds our nation’s most educated and experienced leaders, don’t worry – neither do I. Neither do any of us, really. So we turn to the most powerful tool available to allow little ones to see outside of themselves, to try on different shoes and walk a mile: stories. Using stories to teach, inspire, and change – it’s a revolutionary new thought here on Fitz Between the Shelves, I know. But I repeat it because it’s worth repeating. Phenomenal authors and illustrators from all around the world have done all of the hard work for you. All you have to do is ready your lap, open a book, and read.

If you’re interested in learning more about these books or having a conversation about using literature to start a dialogue on difficult topics, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Looking for more resource lists? Try these: Resources for Talking to your Child about 13 Reasons Why, Resources for Talking to your Child about the Presidential Election, Resources for Talking to your Child about Death, Loss, and Grief, and Resources for Talking to your Child about Diversity, Race, and Racism. See more here.    

If you liked these stories, you might enjoy volunteering with local families in need. Get involved in our community by reaching out the International Rescue Committee

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