Privilege, Fairness, and the Coronavirus:

A guide for conversations with kids about the virus, the protests, and race.

There’s a lot of material online about how to talk to kids about the state of the world right now. But you also want them to think for themselves. Kids are so used to being told what to do, what to think, what to feel, they don’t get much opportunity to grow opinions about the world. They need to have their own opinions to expand and develop. This needs to be cultivated. The current state of the world lends itself to cultivation. The following is my guide to help you engage your children in thinking rather than simply telling them what you want them to think.

Rule of thumb when teaching children: Start from what they know.

Fairness

Kids are great judges of fairness. Under age 6ish, cognitive development means it’s pretty hard for them to think about what is fair for another if it means they lose out. But if they’re not involved in the problem, they know what’s fair and what’s not. You will find out what they know by asking questions. Remember, fair doesn’t mean liking it. And feeling fair is subjective; being fair is objective.

Would it be fair if:

  • Your sister has lots of toys and you have one toy? Why?
  • I did all the work around the house all by myself. Why?
  • You join the free soccer program and your friend doesn’t? Why?
  • You have several video games and your friend has one? Why?
  • You go to school every day (normally) and children in some countries don’t? Why?
  • I bring home ice cream home and share it with everyone. Why?
  • Your big sister stays up till 9:00 and you go to bed at 7:00? Why?
  • Some kids at school get teased or bullied and some don’t? Why?

(you get the picture)

The Coronavirus

Is the coronavirus fair? It judges no one by who they are, how smart they are, how old they are (a little bit here), how much education they have, what color skin or how much money they have. Actually, isn’t this the definition of fair? The virus attacks whoever is in its path.

Would it be fair if:

  • Everyone got the coronavirus? Why?
  • Some people stay home, safer from the virus and others go out to work – even helping people sick with the virus – so are more at risk of getting it? Why?
  • Children got the virus more than elderly people? Why?
  • Someone in your family got it? Why?
  • People with a certain color skin got it and others didn’t? Why?

Some people have an advantage of keeping themselves safer than others? What gives that advantage? Why are we safer than others who may not be as safe?

Advantage

Definition: A condition or circumstance that puts one in a more favorable position over another.

Is it fair to have an advantage?

Who has the advantage:

  • Tall or short basketball players? Why?
  • Kids who get extra tutoring for school and tests or those who don’t? Why?
  • Kids who have lots of family members or those who don’t? Why?
  • You or kids in your school who have a disability/different color skin? People who are tall/short/young/old/get good grades? Why?
  • What advantages do you have that some of your friends don’t have?

Do some people have an advantage over getting the virus?

  • The black population is twice as likely to get the virus as white people? Why? Is that fair?
  • Many service people who work during this time are black or poor. Does that give them an advantage or disadvantage?
  • Does one’s race or skin color give an advantage or disadvantage? Why?
  • Is it fair who gets the virus?

Privilege

Definition: A special right or advantage given or available to certain people or groups.

Privilege means some people have more things, money, education, consideration, respect. It means some are better or worse off than others. In the United States, if your skin is white, it gives you privilege, even if you are poor and don’t have money for things. Being white means you can get away with things more often than black people, you have more privacy, and a comfort level that tells you you’re safe most anywhere. This is a privilege that white people take for granted. There is also privilege that comes with having money. But in some cases, a black person with money is still not as privileged as a white person who doesn’t have much money. Privilege is granted by what family, country, or nationality you were born into. Privilege is not fair.

Why do these things give privilege?

  • Are white people or black people better people? Why?
  • Some people get away with breaking rules and some people don’t? Why?
  • What if you were stopped by the police for speeding and you got a ticket? What if someone else got arrested and put it jail? Which is fair?
  • What if the color of your skin made the difference between being arrested or not? Why?
  • Are you a better person if you have privilege? Why?
  • If you had almost no privileges and all your friends had lots, would that feel fair?
  • What if those unfair privileges were because of the color of your skin? What would that feel like?
  • What if a kid in school who had lots of things, lots of privileges and advantages teased you because you had none? What would you feel like doing?

Protest

When people don’t have the same privileges and advantages others do because of how or where they were born, it feels unfair. When things remain unfair for a very, very long time, and those people are still unfairly treated, how do you think they feel?

People are angry about the privileges for white people over black people. A black man was very badly treated by several police officers, because he was black. He did something wrong, but if he had been white, he probably would have gotten away with it. Instead he was killed. Lots and lots of people who think this is unfair are protesting for all the black people who have been unfairly treated because they are black. They are marching in the streets of their towns all over the world to say, This isn’t right and something has to be done about it.

  • Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing to protest? Why?
  • What would you like to do about it?

We punish our children in an attempt to keep them from pushing our buttons, often escalating the original problem into a cycle of anger and blame. When Your Kids Push Your Buttons is not about what to do to your kids to get them to stop pushing your buttons. This book is about how to be the parent you wish you could be-the parent that only you are holding yourself back from.

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