This guest post is written by Dr. Ayo Gathing , psychiatrist and author of The Modern Trophy Wife. 

One of the primary tasks as a parent is to prepare your children for the real world.  For life outside of your home.  This includes instilling a value system, teaching life skills, and imparting appropriate behavior for interacting with others.  Children are like sponges, soaking up new information from everything around them. So even though they crave knowledge, you slowly introduce them to new ideas as to not overwhelm them.  You don’t want them to grow up too soon.  You want to protect them as long as you can.

So it breaks your heart to see your little ones in pain, physical or emotional.  You cringe thinking back to the fall off the jungle gym or wiping tears after not being chosen for the school play.  Admitting to your child that he or she will feel discomfort again someday and that there will be more disappointments is not easy.

And that is why it is tempting to avoid discussions with children concerning racial violence.  Articulating the vulnerable nature of life; how it can be gone in an instant, is already scary enough.  But trying to make sense out of concepts that makes no sense generates extreme anxiety.  The harassment of men and women, often young people, due to their culture or ethnicity.  The disproportionate shootings of certain groups by those sworn to protect and serve.  The lower conviction rate of the majority when aggressive toward those in the minority.

The thought of devastating a young, naïve mind with the reality of these facts is sickening. However, these conversations are necessary.  Especially in the current climate of the United States.  It seems post-election we have seen more racism, racial violence, and hate talk in these last 48 hours than we have all year.  These conversations convey essential life lessons when living in a society that disregards biases that promote racial and ethnic violence.  Many have asked how you teach children these concepts without depriving them of the purity of childhood.

Here are some tips on how to prepare your child for racial and ethnic violence without ruining their innocence:

Address that there are differences in people.  One of the worst things that you can do for your child is not to prepare them for the melting pot that is the world.  Whether you live in small town USA or an urban city, your child needs to know that there are many people in the world that do not look or live like them.  It is important that even young children begin to understand that everyone is not the same, and that individuality makes you special.   That it is okay to be different!  This allows them to understand that our characteristics are what make us human, and all humans make mistakes.  Hate is not inherited, it is learned.  So teach your child to approach others with love even though may not receive that same respect back as people make mistakes.  This will prepare your child for the possibility of disappointment from others while remaining tolerant.

Create an atmosphere that fosters self-worth.  Self-worth is fostered when a child feels loved for who they are.  It is important that your child know that he or she is good enough no matter what other people think.  Teach your child to appreciate his or her own unique qualities without worrying about what other people say and without looking down on others.  If your child knows that he or she is valued, it promotes a healthy self-esteem and the ability to manage challenging racial situations.

Reveal that life is not always fair.  One of the hardest lessons to learn in life is that it is not always fair.  Negative things happen to positive people and you don’t always get what you worked for.  You can teach this idea to your children early on with situations encountered in life.  You may not be able to afford to buy gifts for the holidays or maybe he or she gets diagnosed with a serious illness; there are numerous opportunities to highlight that things do not always go the way you want it to.  That you can do what you think is right and not get what you want.  This lesson is vital when growing up in a society where you may live in a respectful way and still encounter undesirable results.

Impart that while life is unpredictable, preparation is key.  You cannot control everything in life, especially not the actions of others.  However, you can help your child prepare for hard times.  Your child needs to know that he or she will not always be understood and will not always be heard.  That is when it is time to dig deep and rely on the principles taught to you in the home.  Preparing to deal with people that have not learned the same values is extremely important, and parents it is your job to begin that process as early as possible.  Life will throw out many obstacles, but the lessons you impart will help your child embrace them with grace.

The opinions expressed here are solely my own as a psychiatrist and public health advocate. I receive no support from any pharmaceutical or device company.

My new book—The Modern Trophy Wife: How to Achieve Your Life Goals While Thriving at Home — is now available in electronic, paperback and hard cover versions on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ibooks.

My website is http://www.ayogathingmd.com

Follow me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/ayogathingmd

Follow Ayo Gathing, MD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ayogathingmd