Tyre Nichols’ death has sparked outrage among many in his community and beyond, resulting in five former Memphis police officers being fired and charged with murder. Although it’s an uncomfortable topic for parents to discuss, there is a big chance that kids, even younger children, might hear about Tyre Nichols’s murder on social media.
The cause of Nichol’s death is a topic that’s often deemed too sensitive or heavy for children. What if they ask you about police brutality? Would you know how to talk to your kids about Tyre Nichols? This article aims to help you do just that.
Who Is Tyre Nichols?
On January 7th, 2023, the life of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man from Memphis, Tennessee, ended suddenly and tragically. Police pulled him over for what they said was reckless driving, and he attempted to flee on foot. After being apprehended, he was hospitalized and later died due to the injuries he sustained from his encounter with the police.
Nationwide demonstrations surrounding his death followed. The Tyre Nichols video has made its way to social media since it’s one of the most recent traumatic events after the George Floyd incident.
Dr. Wendy Weinstein from BryLin emphasizes that parents must allow their kids to come to them instead of asking their kids whether they have heard of what happened to Tyre Nichols or seen the video. Parents won’t want to unnecessarily scar their kids if they haven’t heard the news.
If your children do bring up Tyre Nichols and pop the question, “What happened to Tyre Nichols?”, it’s important that you be prepared to answer this in an age-appropriate manner. Ignoring the question will only push the issue further away, and it’s important to take this opportunity to talk about the impacts of police violence.
Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation if you need to discuss this issue with your children:
1. Make Sure Your Child Feels Heard and Understood
Because the death of Tyre Nichols is a traumatic event, it’s important to listen to your child without judgment. Plus, it’s important to validate their feelings, especially if they are feeling scared or frustrated. After all, what happened to Tyre Nichols was tragic, and it’s ok for your child to feel this way.
Dr. Weinsten said, “No matter how old you are, a parent, a child, a young adult, it’s very graphic. It’s disturbing. I think, too, if you watch it too much, it’s going to bring up a lot of strong feelings for you that are not very good, so to speak.”
She emphasizes that it’s better for families to watch it together as a unit, in case kids want to see the video and understand the context of what happened in the story. This way, families can have open conversations about it instead of kids viewing it alone without adult supervision.
2. Explain the Events as Simply as Possible
When talking to kids about Tyre Nichols, try not to overload them with too much information at one time. Instead, explain the events of his death in a simple and straightforward manner that is appropriate for their age level.
Licensed therapist Jody Baumstein suggests that parents can ask their kids what they know about what happened if their kids come to them about the topic.
Older kids and teens can have a better understanding than younger kids, so it’s important to approach the subject depending on your child’s age. It might seem confusing, especially to little kids, since police officers are supposed to be beacons of safety in their eyes. You can try to explain that some police officers can also be the source of violence as well.
Parents must understand that it’s very important to be honest about the situation and answer any questions that their child might have.
It’s also important to provide age-appropriate context about what happened to Tyre Nichols and how it fits into the framework of police violence in America. Try to emphasize the importance of supporting each other and coming together as a unit in this tragic incident.
Otherwise, kids might end up getting confused and take to the Internet for answers that might not be entirely accurate.
3. Offer Comfort, Reassurance, and Encouragement
Baumstein also emphasized that parents also need to cut themselves some slack and don’t need to know all the answers. But it’s important to comfort and reassure your children that they are safe. Also, encourage them to express their feelings and provide a safe space for them to do so.
In addition, you can also encourage your child to take positive action in light of the events — whether that means participating in peaceful demonstrations or contributing to his family’s GoFundMe page.
Parents must also emphasize that they can make changes to prevent tragedies like this from happening, such as advocating for police reform. This gives kids the sense of security they need while showing them that they can be the force of change. However, make sure to reassure them that not all law enforcers are the same.
Richmond NACCP President, JJ Minor, stated, “What we saw it was just completely awful and again parents should also talk to their children too as well in reference to what they saw because what it does is it divides the community and also it shows some folks don’t trust the police but there are some police that you can trust out there.”
4. Encourage Your Child to Express Their Feelings Through Art, Writing, or Other Forms of Self-expression
Once your child has a better understanding of the situation, encourage them to express their emotions through art or writing. Doing this can help kids process difficult events and cope with tough situations.
Self-expression is also a great way for children to stay engaged in social justice movements. This helps them understand that they have the power to make real change, which gives them a sense of purpose during these difficult times. Whether it’s poetry, painting, or any other form of art, expressing their feelings through creativity can be incredibly cathartic.
According to Baumstein, this is a very helpful strategy. “You’re teaching them that they have control over what they focus on, and it brings them back here into the moment into their body. For a minute, they are away from those worries and those concerns,” she said.
Taking A Step Toward Change
Police violence isn’t an easy topic to discuss, but it’s important to have these conversations with your children. By being open and honest about the situation, you’re helping them better understand the gravity of what happened and how they can be part of the change. This is why knowing how to talk to your kids about Tyre Nichols is important.
Remember, it’s ok to feel scared and uncertain during times like this, but try to emphasize that positive action is always possible. By understanding the events surrounding Tyre Nichols’s death, kids can gain a better understanding of the issue and how they can be part of creating real change.
You can donate to Tyre Nichols’ Memorial Fund here.