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Over the last several months, the United States has seen massive upheaval in almost every aspect of life—the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people work, live, socialize, and study; and the blatant killing of Black people in police custody has sparked mass protests against systemic racism.

These shifts may have left many adults feeling depressed, anxious, outraged, or motivated: to find work, stay healthy, and respond to anti-Black bias. But children, who are absorbing the emotional reactions of the adults around them, have less control over how they respond, and need those same adults to explain what’s happening in a clear, age-appropriate manner, say two professors in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern.

Explaining racism to children is an essential conversation in families, irrespective of race or skin color, says Tracy Robinson-Wood, a professor of applied psychology who studies the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class, as well as racial socialization in interracial families. However, families that identify themselves as white may not sense the urgency to explain racial injustice.

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