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Psychologist shares how to talk to your kids about protests, race, and other big topics

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Posted at 4:08 PM, Jun 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 19:47:46-04

BOISE — Kids in elementary school don't have the same grasp on world issues like a high school-aged student might, but psychologist Dr. Roger Olson says it's still important to discuss the themes, like kindness and equality, at their level.

"As kids begin to enter the school-age in kindergarten and first grade, this idea of individual differences is important to talk about but also in that context, letting them know that everyone has equal value and everyone needs to be treated with respect," said Olson.

Dr. Olson says the home environment can be the biggest place to grow. It's a safe place for kids to learn and express emotions. Olson says more is caught by children than taught to them in the younger years.

"Kids learn from what they see in their environment starting at a very young age, you know how the family talks about people and how the family relates with others, especially people that are different or have different opinions or different political perspectives," said Olson.

"and again I think the home environment is so important as a learning environment for children to pick up on how we treat others, and so this is kind of a time where parents should be doing some soul searching you know in how do I model treating others with respect."

Kids in junior high or high school have a more abstract understanding of concepts, but they can also feel more stress and confusion.

"It's good a lot of times to sit down and have a family meeting and say let's talk about, this you've probably been seeing a lot of things; open up a discussion for what they're thinking what they see and again offer listening, and offer your perspective," said Olson.

There is such thing as too much exposure for younger kids, however. Dr. Olson says it's important to limit younger kids' media exposure, as not negatively to impact them or lead to lasting trauma.

"Talk to them at a level that they can understand and let them know your values as a family, such as respect for one another and how that is related to some of the bigger news stories," said Olson.

The American Psychological Association also states that perceived discrimination has been linked to more physical and mental health problems. For resources on these topics for children and people of color, Dr. Olson recommends looking at APA's website or the Center for the Study of Traumatic Resources.