Episode 44: How to Talk About Diversity With Your Child

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Dr. Deidra Sorrell about how to talk about diversity with children as well as discussing her book on this topic.  

We dive right in and discuss what sparked Sorrell to write a children’s book discussing diversity.  She has two children of her own and had both of them in mind when she wrote the book in 2015 shortly after the Baltimore riots.  This was a time where people felt that there was injustice and police brutality with the underlying problem of racism.  As she was watching on television, she thought, “What would my children or other children think about this?”  She did not want her children to grow up thinking all police are terrible, or that all people of a certain race are one way or another.  Sorrell wanted to do something to fight against this and decided that she could educate children or even some adults through a book.  The book explains racism as a germ, where a germ is very harmful and can even be deadly, but through education and awareness can be reduced and a person can heal from it.  

Sorrell further explains that over the last several years there have been instances of violence against black men and women that we see and hear about more often because of social media.  When children and adults see these events on the television or social media it is traumatic.  It is necessary to talk about it in a helpful and healing way so people can process the trauma appropriately and not become part of the issue.  

We discuss that it really frustrates Sorrell when others have books or movies about the oppression of others where there are no solutions.  She wonders why we are watching these movies about slavery and oppression over and over again when there are no solutions presented, as this is retraumatizing.  There is a pledge in the back of her book where the children who have read the book make a pledge to be open, not tolerant, to getting to know someone and learning about them and respecting them.  

Sorrell explains that children are not born racist.  She has found that children are very open to people that do not look like them.  When the parents put negative on a person who is different, this is what the children learn.  Research shows that children who talk about different races and multiculturalism grow up to be more open minded as an adult.  She feels that “not speaking color” sounds nice but does not work.  Everyone is a color and this is okay.  

We then further discuss the idea behind Sorrell’s book.  It is about a little girl and her brother who are watching television and witnessing the footage of a riot.  They talk with their parents about what is going on and the parent tells them that someone was harmed badly because of racism.  The girls asks about racism and the parents explain how you may have felt differently about a child who spoke a different language.  Sorrell explains that this is not racism–racism is being fearful of someone or not wanting to be friends with someone who speaks another language or looks different.  The parent goes on to talk with the child about diversity and the little girl is able to understand how she can be more inclusive of others.  

Sorrell reveals that she has had some criticism about her book.  Some people have said that her book does not give the correct definition of racism.  She adds that there is a note to parents that explains the purpose of the book is to teach children to accept others and be friendly and loving toward others.  When they get older and their brains mature, they will be able to understand the scholarly definitions of racism.  When they are young, it needs to be put into language they understand.  Sorrell explains that as an example, African Americans have been put through a lot of oppression, but they cannot teach hate and continue the cycle.  We discuss how her style of book is a perfect foundation for children to learn and build upon.

We change gears and discuss how Sorrell came up with the metaphor of racism as a germ.  Sorrell explains that in counseling, one technique that is used is to name their anger.  If a child has an anger issue, you teach the child to draw the anger and name it.  If they named their anger Mr. Grump, they would discuss how Mr. Grump is an issue that needs to be taken care of.  This is how the germ concept came about to explain racism to small children.  She says that in the book the little girl asks her mom if there is medicine she can give her for racism, and the mother says that the answer is through education.

Sorrell discusses an experience she had going to summer camp with Children’s International Summer Villages.  She went to Sweden when she was 11 and stayed for a month with delegations from all over the world.  She was frightened to meet the delegates from the Soviet Union as the Cold War was going on at the time and the propaganda she had been exposed to made it seem like they would be monsters.  They also thought she would be the same way.  She would have never learned how nice and wonderful they were if she had not had the educational experience.  She also stayed with an Italian family that changed her preconceived notions about Italians.  During the stay, they also learned that their preconceived notions regarding black people were incorrect.  Without that educational experience, neither would have learned.  

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GUEST BIO:

Dr. Deidra Sorrell is the owner of Synergy Wellness Therapeutic Services–a counseling center in Waldorf, MD.  She provides individual counseling to children and adults and has been in private practice for approximately one year.  Prior to this, she was a school psychologist for 18 years, working with children with special needs.   

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CONNECT WITH DR. DEIDRA SORRELL:

WEBSITE: www.synergywellnesstherapy.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/synergywellnesstherapeutic/

BOOK LINK: The Germ on Amazon

 

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