About the author: Ebonie Turner of Bay Shore is a 20-year educator in the Bay Shore School District, where she teaches at the middle school.

by Ebonie Turner

During great political and social upheaval and civil unrest, schools normally serve as a protected space outside of the home for children to grapple with difficult concepts.

However, those conversations are hard to have now because our country is in the middle of a pandemic, and schools have already closed for the school year.

Ideally, the first place these tough discussions happen is at home. I consider myself to be a level-headed, “face the music” type of person, and when I recently had to tackle this heavy conversation with my 8-year-old son, it frightened me.

I have to admit, for a minute I froze. All of the many thoughts that typically flood my mind on any given day came to a screeching halt when my son came to me in tears and said, “Mommy, I’m scared. I don’t know if I can trust the police anymore.”

As a parent, you have anxieties about how to best protect, shield, and ultimately prepare your child for the world. Well, at that moment, all the worries and fears were there, plain as day and they were staring me in the face.

In search of the right words of how best to convey my emotions without upsetting him further, I cautiously proceeded and had the talk with my son.

I soon realized there was no shielding him from the facts, and the truth of the matter was — and still is — that my child was scared. As am I.

The entire country is, but I had to be truthful. My son needed me, to be honest, transparent, vulnerable, and supportive.

I hugged him and let him express his fears openly. We entered into a serious but gentle and courageous dialogue about rules, fairness, race, justice, and kindness. We wrapped up with dreams and hope.

All of these ideologies are prevalent in raising good citizens.

Kids need to be able to speak about what is happening in the country now. It is not an easy conversation to have but a necessary one. My experience as an educator has helped me.

I have always believed that it is incredibly freeing and powerful to teach young people to engage in these types of conversations rather than avoid them. Parents are helping to facilitate homeschooling and working in tandem with educators. We have to seize the opportunity to have these hard conversations about what is happening in society.

To any parent who is uncertain about how to broach this topic, I encourage you to have some sort of discourse appropriate for your child’s level of understanding. Especially if children seek answers from you.

As uncomfortable as it is, it should and has to happen. All of the emotions that have been brought to the surface are valid and in light of recent events, we must continue to encourage conversation and action to inspire hope.

It is this notion upon which I hung my hat on during conversations with my students in our Google Meet. All of this has to bring us together as a community and nation.

In these uncertain times, one thing that is constant is change. We need to turn these fears into a desire to work cooperatively to enact change and be the difference.