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Milton Hershey School Expert Shares 5 Tips for Talking to Young People about Juneteenth

By Allison Carrier, MHS Psychologist

At MHS, our Sacred Values of positive spirit, commitment to mission, mutual respect, and integrity, are on the forefront of everything we do. These values help us celebrate all members of our community and ground students and staff when having difficult conversations. Combining the words “June” and “nineteenth,” Juneteenth is a day honoring the moment the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War was over, and they were free.

Milton Hershey School psychologist Allison Carrier sits with a book.

Given the complexity and intersection of topics around this holiday, talking about it with children and young teens can seem challenging. Topics like this can be intimidating to discuss with a child, but with an open mind, a little patience, and a lot of empathy, these conversations can be transformative. Here are some tips on how to approach these discussions with young people:

1. Educate Yourself

Adults should start by learning about the history of the day and the meaning behind celebrations. Find websites, videos, and books that you can share and discuss with your children. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should be open to learning and helping your children understand the information available to them.

2. Be Prepared for Hard Topics

Be prepared for tough questions. Consider the age of your children and how you want to approach these topics. Even at a young age, children recognize differences among people as well as the concepts of fairness and equity.

3. Emphasize Reflection

Juneteenth is American history and a time for both celebration and reflection. It is a day when we can reflect on the challenges that face those who stand up to oppression, honor those who have come before us, and to celebrate the resilience, empowerment, and bravery of Black Americans. For all children and families, this is a day to reflect on freedom and justice, while supporting equity for everyone.

4. Everyone can Celebrate

Celebrating Juneteenth can include gathering with family and friends. Other ways to celebrate include visiting a museum (in person or virtually), reading books about the history of Juneteenth or the Civil Rights Movement, watching related videos or documentaries, supporting Black-owned businesses and restaurants, attending community events, and having meaningful conversations.

5. Remain Open Minded

One of the most important skills our children can learn from us during conversations like this is the importance of staying open minded. By modeling this behavior, not only are we allowing ourselves to learn something from the children we are talking to, but we are showing them how to model this themselves.

Learn More about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at MHS

Milton Hershey School does not discriminate in admissions or other programs and services on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, sex, religious creed or disability. Read important MHS policies on equal opportunity and diversity, equal employment opportunity, and more.