Child Experts: What to Say About Verdict

Child therapists say the verdict creates an opportunity to talk to our sons about history.

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Calmness, Resilience and Protection

When something uncomfortable happened to Carothers as a child, she recalled, her mother told her about a traumatic event that happened in her own life.

"My mother told me the story of being a kid and seeing a Jet magazine with a picture of Emmett Till's face on it and throwing the magazine out of the window out of shock," Carothers said. "[That] let me know she had been through something similar that was traumatic and she was able to get past it."

Carothers said children need to learn that scary things happen that will make them feel angry and sad, but if they talk about it, and articulate their feelings, it will help alleviate some of the anxiety. Being present for those conversations is key. Dr. Taliba M. Foster, a child psychiatrist who practices in both Philadelphia and New York, encourages parents to disengage their black son from all forms of traditional and social media if the child is seriously affected by the verdict.

"I try to help the parent control how the traumatic event is affecting their family. You can't get [that calmness] from outside sources.

"Isolate your child from the onslaught of media. Clips of people 'Trayvoning.' Different perspectives that are not helpful and really scary for kids," Foster said. That also means tempering yourself when speaking about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman with your adult friends while your son is nearby.

"A child is going to react based on how they see their parent react. You have to present yourself as calm," Carothers said. Parents should tell their sons that they don't have control over everything, but "we can make some decisions to make sure you're safe if you're ever in a similar situation," she explained. She calls it the "safety conversation" for black males -- that holds that black boys need to be extra-vigilant -- that has made national news since Trayvon's death 16 months ago.

Chavis said to reassure your black son that he is a good person. "Your child has to know from the very beginning that you will always protect them and keep them safe.

"You have every right to be scared. Do not deny your fear. And yet at the same time, know that there are some things you can do to manage your fear," he advised that parents tell their sons. 

The Law Does Not Always Factor in Morality

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