For centuries, parenting is just one of the battlefields my people have had to fight on, on a constant basis. It is important to remember that every warrior requires rest to continue the fight.

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When I think of black parenting in America, the old adage “there’s nothing new under the sun” comes to mind. Parenting black children has always come with an added dose of stress, trauma, and fear.

During the time of slavery, enslaved peoples and their families were vulnerable to the threat of separation and harm. Parents were constantly worried that their children would be fed, abused, killed, or sold, never to be seen again.

When slavery was abolished and the United States entered the Jim Crow era, a whole new set of concerns began to weigh on the minds of parents in black communities.

Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the South. These laws affected what school your child could attend and the resources in your community, and fueled the fires of those filled with hate. Safety, education, access to care, and overall quality of life were just a few of the concerns.

The civil rights movement confronted much of the injustice of the Jim Crow era. With the too recent passage of Brown v. Board of Education decision, black parents felt that there would finally be some change for their children.

Educational opportunities and access to resources played (and continue to play) a critical role in economic independence. While our communities fought and fought to be seen and treated as equals, Black parents also worked hard to establish a strong foundation for their families and communities.

Putting heart and soul into our children and raising them for a better world than the one that currently exists was a luxury for some. For most, survival was the focus.

Parenting itself is not for the faint of heart. But to talk about parenting from a black perspective is to talk about living in a state of chronic stress and anxiety.

Knowing from day one that the world won’t see your bundle of joy as you know them is heartbreaking. Preparing yourself to teach them about a world that doesn’t value them does something to your psyche. Adding the daily worries that your partner or children will not return home alive takes our stress to another level.

For most black families, “normal” childhood experiences are met with at least two additional layers of caution. Discussing discrimination as early as preschool or dreading the day you’ll have to sit your kids down to “talk” has become common practice over the centuries.

Teaching our kids how to safely navigate this world doesn’t focus on seat belts, street crossing rules, and “the birds and the bees.” He focuses on making sure they get home alive.

It is important to understand the impact of stress on mental health. Being in a state of chronic stress increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety in some people.

It is important to understand that the stress we experience stems not only from our personal interactions, but also from epigenetic memory.

TO study 2017 found that living in chronic stressful conditions can affect DNA for more than 10 generations. Epigenetic memory can trigger intense emotional responses to circumstances that mirror what our ancestors experienced.

Parenting as an African-American means chronic stress, subconscious and remembered trauma, and constant concern for the well-being of our children. All of this is exhausting and requires strategies for ongoing self-care.

Disconnect when necessary

As the news cycle and social media updates flood your feed with current events, keep your capacity in mind. If you feel like the information is draining your energy levels or you have a strong emotional response, take a moment to breathe.

You need to process your feelings at a pace that is healthier for you. Setting limits on online activity and creating limits around the conversations you participate in can help regulate your stress levels.

look to tradition

Trauma is not the only thing that has been passed down from our ancestors. Deeply healing and restorative practices through tradition live on. Gathering in movement circles, dancing, drumming, and singing are traditional ways to release stress.

Eating together and recounting stories from the past is also a joyous way to share history, laugh, and bond between generations. These practices are vital to repair wounds and connect with each other and with ourselves.

Explore meditative and healing therapies

Physically grounding ourselves with yoga, stretching, and meditation can have a profound effect on our healing process. Creative arts therapies that center our culture and values ​​can also help heal visible and invisible generational wounds. Nourishing our bodies with foods that help reduce anxiety can also help our daily functioning.

If you need additional support, choosing a culturally competent and trauma-informed therapist may also be a great option for you. Some resources for finding a therapist near you include:

Make rest a priority

Last but not least: rest. Quiet your mind and take quiet moments for yourself throughout the day. It can be hard to resist the urge to stay on top of ever-changing updates, but they’ll wear you down.

Rest not only reduces stress, but also improves overall health. Getting a good night’s sleep can boost your immune system and allow your body to heal and reset.

While it is true that there is nothing new under the sun, it is also true that each day brings with it a new opportunity. Each day presents an opportunity to grow, heal, change, and create a world based on true respect and honor for the humanity of others.


Jacquelyn Clemmons is an experienced birth doula, traditional postpartum doula, writer, artist, and podcast host. She is passionate about supporting families holistically through her company De La Luz Wellness, based in Maryland.