2. Avoid metaphors, they usually confuse things. Kids are concrete. Be concrete.
3. Don’t sugar-coat it.** Making things softer and more palatable only wraps your child in a bubble of privilege and makes them unable to recognize oppression and injustice when they witness it.
4. Listen to them and answer their questions honestly, even when the answer is “I don’t know” or “because they are motivated by hatred and fear” or “some women are complicit in their own oppression.”
5. Hug them, you will both need it. Step 1 is going to hurt like hell.
We are not raising boys and girls, we are raising Grown-Ass Men and Women. We are raising the future. If things are ever going to get better, we have to stop obscuring ugly truths and start doing the hard work of raising Grown-Ass Adults.
We can not afford to shield our children. If you believe in justice, if you believe in what is right and good, tell your kids the truth. They deserve it and they’re stronger than you know.
And one last step (because with kids there’s always one more thing):
6. REPEAT steps 1-5 as needed. I recommend every month or so. They were probably only listening to ⅔ of what you said the first time. You’re never going to be as interesting as Minecraft. Ever.
Good luck. Parenting was never supposed to be easy.
** If you don’t know how to do this, find a parent who is of a different race, sexuality, gender, religion, or cultural background from your own. Ask them how they did this with their own children because I guarantee they already have.
The Muslim woman down the block has already told her precocious seven year old tomboy what to do when someone tries to pull off her hijab.
The Black father of the kindergartner in your daughter’s class has already taught his quiet, kind son exactly what to say and do in order to stay alive when he is harassed by the police for the first, second, and hundredth time.
The parents of a shy twelve year-old (trans)girl have already explained the slurs, the names, the hatred their daughter suffered when she was brave enough to show up to junior high dressed as herself.
The undocumented parents of US-born children have already explained how to handle difficult questions from teachers, doctors, neighbors, friends.
The mother who barely survived her rape has already explained rape culture to her four year old daughter. (You bet your ass I did.)
The dads of those adorable twins in your son’s second grade class have already explained what “faggot” means because they heard it for the first time when they were three - that (almost) perfect day with the butterflies and the ice cream cones.
... you get the gist, right? If you don't, let me know. I can - and will - continue. Because maybe the question you should really be asking is not how do I explain these things to my children but rather, why haven't I explained these things before?