Race Relations: Leading constructive conversations with kids and teams
By Greg Bach
As the nation is immersed in protests and debates surrounding race relations and equality for all, a leading behavioral consultant encourages parents and coaches to strike up conversations with their kids and teams on these all-important societal issues.
And keep that dialogue going to help forge a path to much-needed change.
“These conversations are absolutely critical and need to be ramped up even more now,” says Jennifer Keitt, author of the new children’s book #StrongKids and founder of the non-profit Keitt Institute, a top teaching, research and empowerment organization.
Use these tips from Keitt in your homes and on the field with your teams:
It starts with you: Before diving into these discussions with children, it is important for parents to take time to acknowledge their feelings. “Here’s what the research says: good parenting does not happen apart from understanding where you are first as a parent,” Keitt says. “And what I mean by that is being very intentional about sitting down with yourself and your spouse, or whomever is co-parenting with you, and discussing where you are in your racial identity.”
Normalize discussions: Weave talks about race into family time at home. “It means dinner table conversations,” Keitt says. “It’s discussing in a very positive way who we are and what our culture and ethnicity is about.”
Ask questions: Most kids aren’t going to share their feelings, especially on complex topics, unless prompted. So posing questions to ignite dialogue is often the best route to go. “Questions are really safe places that parents can go to,” Keitt says. “It gives children the place and the space to really tell parents what they are thinking and tell parents what they are feeling. I’ve had that ‘what are you thinking, what are you doing?’ conversation with my four young adult children over and over again the last several weeks because I don’t know what they are thinking and I don’t know what they are feeling. And I think that’s a great place for parents to start.”
Inspire and guide: The more men and women of character that children have in their lives, the better. And youth sports can be a fertile ground for powerful interactions. Kids look up to, and emulate, their coaches, so it is imperative that coaches inspire and model appropriate behavior during all practices and games – and address inappropriate race-related behavior or actions immediately.
Pre-season self-evaluation: Coaches need to self-check that they are involved for all the right reasons – to help every child have a fun and rewarding experience. Parents will be more vigilant than ever when it comes to the treatment of their kids. Keitt has seen the negative impact from those coaches who didn’t treat all players equal. “It showed up in their insensitivity, in the things they would say, and the way they would approach children,” she says.
Be a part of the solution: Sports has the intrinsic power to transform lives and unify communities. While sports can’t fix racism alone, when done right they can play an important role in helping to abolish it. “Coaches have a tremendous opportunity but should not feel that they have to do it alone,” Keitt says. “Bring in parents and support staff and use your village.”
You can connect with Jennifer Keitt on Instagram @JenniferKeitt and @thekeittinstitute, on Facebook @JenniferKeittRadio, Twitter @JenniferKeitt, and LinkedIn.
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