These are difficult times and we know having conversations around these topics are uncomfortable for many. Yet, avoiding these conversations may unintentionally send the message that we are ok with the current situation. If you are one of many adults in a young person’s life who isn’t quite sure how to navigate this conversation, we have some tips to get you started. When you are ready, we encourage you to possibly get out of your comfort zone, learn something new, and reach out to your Little and their family. Remember, participating in BBBSCI is a commitment to promote healthy youth development. Youth Development involves Identity Development. For Black and Brown youth, this includes an important aspect of helping them shape cultural identities and racial identities.
A Big can have important conversations on race and racial identity without specifically discussing racialized violence. However; if you feel you, your Little, and your relationship are ready to discuss those topics, we recommend that you reach out and talk to their Parent/Guardian first. As with all other areas of mentoring your Little, we encourage Bigs and Parents to partner. It’s helpful to understand what conversations they’re having with your Little. You don’t want to undo any conversation their Parent/Guardian has already had with them in regards to keeping them safe. Be sure their Parent/Guardian is comfortable with you talking to their child about these events, and know that you are both on the same page in regards to information shared – including your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests. Be cognizant that there may be some details that your Little’s Parent/Guardian would prefer them not know, especially due to their age or due to the graphic nature of some details. Please respect these boundaries. For guidance on starting this conversation with a Parent/Guardian, please reach out to your Mentoring Relationship Specialist, as this can be a challenging conversation to know how to navigate.
Before bringing up the topic with your Little, first assess how they are feeling and reacting to events. Your Little may just be focused on their hobbies, friends, or otherwise distracted and seem uninterested or averse to talking about recent racial events. That is okay. This could be their version of self-care. Do not feel the need to force the issue. They may not be ready to talk.
When you are feeling prepared and your Little seems ready, it is best to initiate these conversations with open-ended questions. Questions such as “How are you doing with everything going on?” or “How are you feeling lately?” are great conversation starters to help give an idea of how your Little is feeling and what is on their mind. If YOU are not feeling prepared to have these conversations with your Little, that is okay. We do not expect you to force this conversation for yourself either.
Remember: there are no right answers. This is a challenging time for our community and our nation as a whole. It is okay to say, “I don’t know. I’m learning with you.” If you are ever encountered with a question that you don’t know how to answer, it is okay to tell your Little, “That’s a great question. I’m not really sure how to answer that. Let me write that down and see if I can find an answer for you.”
And as always, your Mentoring Relationship Specialist is always available to support you and help you through difficult conversations. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to attend A Conversation with Bigs on Solidarity & Supporting Youth on June 25. Spaces are limited and you may register by contacting Camille Brugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adopted from our friends at BBBS of Kentuckiana and edited for BBBS of Central Indiana