Since the start of the pandemic, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have experienced more discrimination and racism than usual. Your child may hear strangers harassing neighbors or community members, blaming them for societal problems. Your child may also see stories in the news about Asian Americans getting physically assaulted in cities around the country.
Many AAPI children may not want to burden their parents with their concerns, so your child may not talk about what they hear or experience. They may also be accustomed to coping with microaggressions at school: students or teachers may comment about your child’s physical appearance or their academic performance. Someone may suggest that your child is a foreigner, even if your family has lived in the US for generations. These sentiments may cause AAPI children to feel sad, hopeless or hesitant to go to school, where they may be subjected to hurtful remarks or face ongoing discrimination.
You may want to check in with your child to see how they’re feeling because of the recent uptick in negative attention toward the AAPI community. If you don’t usually talk about emotions or you aren’t sure what to say, here are some ways to get the conversation started:
- Talk to your child about anti-AAPI incidents that may have taken place in your community or were covered in the news. Ask your child what they think. They may be worried that they or their family members could be targeted by similar threats or violence, or they may just want to express their anger about the situation.
- Ask your child if they’ve ever experienced anti-Asian discrimination at school, on the playground or while participating in sports. If you feel comfortable, share stories about anti-Asian comments that others made to you while you were growing up. Your child may feel less alone, and they may appreciate that you can relate to what they’ve gone through.
- If your child tells you about a time when a classmate, neighbor or teammate threatened or belittled them because they were Asian, let them know that you’re sorry that they dealt with that experience. Ask your child if they want your help related to the situation – for example, you could ask school administrators to intervene. Sometimes, children don’t want parents to problem-solve, especially if the incident happened a while ago; they may just need you to acknowledge what happened and validate their feelings.
- Look for changes in your child’s behavior, like sadness, quitting activities that they used to love or self-isolating instead of socializing. Even if your child maintains their grades, becoming less engaged at school or with friends may be a warning sign of possible problems. Consider seeking guidance from a therapist if you think that your child needs to talk to a professional about their feelings.
- Talk about your culture and your family’s background to help fight negative stereotypes. Racial-ethnic socialization has been proven to be a powerful way to combat racism.
- For families of non-AAPI background: Talking to the kids in your life about the topics above can be a helpful way to raise awareness, help children know what to do and how they can support their AAPI classmates.
By having conversations with your child about their experiences and feelings, you can help them work through racism, stereotypes and discrimination.