Learning how to trust is an art that we must teach our children. Your child has to trust that you have his best interest in mind and that even though you could, you would not hurt him through physical force, emotional blackmail, or mental sabotage. In doing this, your child has to learn the world is neither black or white but rather fifty shades of grey.
Your child has to trust you based on no other input other than you showed up each day he wakes and gave him love, clothes, food, and a ride to school.
Meanwhile, as a parent, you are trusting that as flawed as you might be, you will do the best job possible to raise your child to adulthood leaving the fewest scars.
So while life is throwing you Ninja blades and you are dodging them left and right, your child is watching every move you make, so they will know how to trust in the greater good of humanity and the world to make their own way as an adult.
This is how we learn to trust. Our minds observe and we record these observations as feelings. But then there is the next step, the learning our children do as they grow apart from us as their trusted authority. It is when they begin to do their own research into the world and find out that the world as they have constructed it is much more complicated than they had been taught to believe.
For this reason, a white parent raising a Black son does a great disservice to raise a child believing the world is colorblind. A white parent raising a white child to believe that being white is not a privilege, does a great disservice to their child believing that all is right with the world. A Black parent raising their Black child to believe that there is no such thing as hueism does a great disservice to their child believing that Black is black and white is white. And have mercy on the parent raising a biracial child who has to create trust in a world that treats ambiguous ethnicity as a freak show.
I do believe parents have the primary role as the trusted educator of their children, helping them not only navigate the complex society we live in, but also acting as change agents to develop children’s minds to handle the paradox of what was, what is, what could be – so they learn to become a citizen of the world instead of relying on the cookie cutter narrative of the U.S. of A. to determine self-worth and world view.
This means teaching our children to trust – trust us, trust in the goodness of humanity, trust that systems and government can work, while at the same time developmentally revealing to them times when we might fail them, people could fail them, and systems and government might often fail them. This is where the shade of grey, the nuance in trust, is the lesson to be taught.
How do you teach trust to a child? Children learn from modeling, so we as parents trust them to mostly do the right thing and they in turn learn that we will mostly do the right thing. If we tell our children it is important to value everyone, they need to see us valuing everyone, which doesn’t mean just saying hello to everybody we meet, but actually engaging with people – eye contact as well as more intimate forms of relationships such as inviting people from varying backgrounds into our house and sharing meals with them. Children also hear what we tell them, so talk about trust and why it is important. “I trust that you will pick up your toys because I know you know the rules in this house.” “I trust that you will make the right decision and share your toys when your friends come over.” “I trust you would not hurt her feelings because we know how it feels awful to have our feelings hurt.”
For larger concepts, including racial awareness, it is imperative that we as parents know and teach history – the good, the bad, and the ugly, and as parents that we keep our own minds open to what is happening in the now so we can view the world through our child’s eyes. So there are always two sides to a story, there is always resistance to oppression, there are always people who are good and people who aren’t. Of equal importance, is teaching children to believe in what Jews call tikkun olam – the ability we have as humans to heal the world.
We have to teach children trust is important, but children also have to know that discernment, as a component of trust, will be their greatest tool.