Recent protests demonstrate that many Americans have some pretty troubling views on immigration. Just last summer, large groups staked out in front of buses full of immigrant children, shouting and cursing. Now, people in Germany are boycotting immigrants with certain religious beliefs, particularly Muslims — and it’s highly likely that some Americans will do the same.
Suffice to say, immigration is a contentious issue right now and anti-immigration sentiments are more popular than ever before. And that leaves parents with a true dilemma. How should parents talk to kids about immigration? How can parents promote knowledge and understanding in this difficult time?
Talking To Young Children
Young children will not understand green card complications, asylum, and refugee matters. They will not understand the reasoning of top immigration lawyers, and the nuances of immigration laws. And, for you, that’s good news. With young children, you can keep the conversation relatively simple. Talk to kids about your family tree; bring up immigration in relation to your family history, and when your family — whether it was a generation ago or several generations ago — immigrated to the U.S. Explain that some families are still immigrating to the U.S., just like their grandparents or ancestors did. (In fact, there are as many as 6 million applications for U.S. citizenship submitted each and every year, according to the United States Citizenship And Immigration Services… if you want to get specific.)
Sparking Discussion With Teens And Preteens
Preteens and teens are able to form a much deeper understanding. School age children will understand that the U.S. grants 1,001,715 green cards annually. If you explain which groups of people are most likely to immigrate to the U.S. (right now Asian Americans top that category), they’ll be able to understand that, too. While new stories about immigration reform, refugees, and the top immigration lawyers may still go over their heads, encourage your children to read and discuss them. Do your best to answer questions. Answer morally difficult (or even logistically challenging!) questions honestly, even if that means admitting, “I don’t know.”
Immigration is a difficult topic, even (and perhaps especially) when it comes up in adult conversation. Learn to tactfully and responsibly bring up the subject with children of all ages, whether they are young or entering their teens.