Here’s how you can help your toddler understand this important moment in history… By counselling psychologist Reabetsoe Buys
While we as adults understand the history and significance of Youth Day and our country’s emotional, political history; our children don’t yet have the life experience, psychological or emotional maturity to fully understand the details. However, this doesn’t mean we should completely shy away from talking to our children about difficult issues and explaining significant moments which make us who we are. We just need to do it in an age-appropriate manner so it’s easier for them to understand.
When we think about Youth Day some of the first thoughts that pop into our heads are associated with “inequality”, “oppression” and “fight”, which are inevitably associated with emotions such as anger and pain. But we want to be able to help our children understand this moment in history, without them simply absorbing what we think and believe.
So, when talking to young children about Youth Day make sure you:
- Use age-appropriate language and use basic terms – toddlers won’t be able to understand what “big” words like “apartheid”, “racism” or “oppression” mean. Rather say something like: “In the past some people didn’t like people who looked different from them, and didn’t treat them fairly.”
- Simplify the story by sticking to the main point and keeping it short. You can say, “This made many people very sad so they decided to come together to change this.”
- Exclude information which could be traumatising. While it’s important for our children to understand our history, revealing traumatic details or content to a young child could do more harm than good. Don’t show or share details of the shooting of Hector Pietersen for example.
- Address their feelings, as well as yours. Allow them to feel what they feel and reassure them that it’s normal to feel that way; allow this for yourself, too!
- Reassure them that things are better now and that they’re safe and taken care of. Let them know that this happened in the past, but that what they did was very important because it showed what power young people have to change the world.
- Catch your own biases – because this is a sensitive topic. Avoid using biases which may not be relevant to the discussion with your young child.
- Remember, as your child grows, and as their understanding of the world increases, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to teach them the valuable lessons of our past.
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“Reprinted from livingandloving”