Honoring Black History: Psychologist explains how to bring up tough topics with keiki

Black History Month

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Doctor Allana Coffee has offered her expertise in psychology on KHON2’s Wake Up 2day morning program for years.

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“When I’m working with a young person or anyone, I like to say, ‘so let’s make sure we understand the topic in common,” said Dr. Allana Coffee, a psychologist with the Honolulu Psychology Collective.

In light of Black History Month, Dr. Coffee explains that issues like inequality and racism are topics many keiki may face.

“It means that sometimes they’re mean to them or they’re demeaning to them. They don’t let them participate. Sometimes it’s just a look, joke, or teasing. Sometimes it can even be much worse. So let children know that not only is racism a belief, but can sometimes be an actionable thing.”

Dr. Coffee says it’s common for parents to struggle with confronting those topics with keiki.

“We have a tendency to minimize or blame them or even deny it’s happening at all. So one of the things that we can do is validate their experience. If we don’t validate it, they start thinking we’re crazy or blind.”

It’s all a matter of explaining those deep issues with children in their own terms.

“I like to use the imagery of a canoe. We’re all in the canoe together. We are, you know, in different positions. There’s a big set of waves coming, but we’re arguing with each other inside the canoe about who’s more important than another person. The waves are coming in and they’re big. What the truth is that we need each other’s oars to get in the water, we all need to start paddling together.”

Dr. Coffee says there are dozens of resources online to help teachers and parents tackle these conversations.

“It’s called a Kids Book About and this came from one of my teacher friends. There’s about 20 to 25 of these books and it helps parents to begin a conversation in kids speak.”

Dr. Coffee has tirelessly worked to help dozens of families, teachers and keiki navigate through these tough issues for decades.

“We talk about the things that are different about us and we celebrate those differences. Those cultural experiences bring us closer to the world. It helps us to feel more familiar and safe. Even with those differences.”

To learn more about the Honolulu Psychology Collective, click here.

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