When you want to educate your children about race and racism, it can be hard to know when to start and how to do it. You may not want to introduce the topic to them at an early age when they are not even aware of it. Every family is different, so how you choose to address the topic will look different too. According to studies, children start to show signs of racial bias as early as five years old so starting the conversation early is best.
Under five years old
Young children will start to notice differences between people and point them out. You can use the opportunity to tell them that people all look different. At the same time, you can say that every human being may look different, but there are also things that they all have in common.
- Read essays about racism: Students may have lessons in class about racism. They may have to write assignments about racism in the criminal justice system. Reading a free collection of “Just Mercy” essays can be very helpful. Just Mercy examples of academic writing can help students to get inspired and figure out a title or outline for a paper. If they can’t find a suitable example, they can always reach out to a professional writer to write an essay for them.
- Be open: If you try to shut them up when they ask you why someone has a different skin color, you give them the idea that the topic is taboo. You need to teach them from early on that it’s okay to talk about differences and help them to respect and appreciate them.
- Use fairness: Young children usually understand the concept of fairness quite well. You can tell them why racism is unfair. Give them examples they can relate to, like “What if the children at school don’t want to play with a boy with blond hair like yours – is that fair?” Explain that it’s unfair to ever leave someone out or tease them about their skin color, the language they speak or anything else that makes them different.
A simple racism definition for kids is “Some people believe they are more important than others because of their skin color and background. They treat others they think aren’t as good as them unfairly, which causes them harm.”
The best way to address race and racism in older children is to first find out what they already know and understand.
- Ask questions: Ask your child questions like “What do you think about what you saw in that movie?” or “What do you think about what your friends were talking about?” When you understand what your child thinks, you can address any gaps in their understanding.
- Discuss media together: One of your child’s main sources of information may be social media. Ask them about their interactions on social media, and this may give you an opportunity to talk about stereotypes and racial bias.
- Brainstorm ways to help: Brainstorm about ways to be active in standing up against racism. Your children can feel empowered if they speak up for a friend who’s being bullied because of skin color.
Create a safe space for them to share their feelings
‘What my kids learn about racism at school’ is a concern for many parents. Kids may suffer discrimination and bullying at school. This can evoke strong emotions. If your children or their friends have been victims of racism at school, they may have feelings of fear, anger, confusion, and sadness. You need to let them know that it’s important to share their feelings. Help them to put their feelings into perspective.
Try to find ways to introduce your children to people from different cultures, races and ethnicities. Positive interactions and developing friendships from an early age can make a lifelong difference. You need to keep an eye open for racial bias in the books they read and movies they watch. Introduce them to ones that portray different races in a positive light. You need to help to nurture your child’s empathy for other people.
Be a role model
You can’t expect your children to treat other races with respect if you don’t do so yourself. Your children will take their cues from you on how they relate to other races. Your actions will demonstrate your values to them more than your words. It will help to do things together as a family to learn about and appreciate the differences between people.
If you avoid or ignore the topic of racism, you are doing your children a disservice. They will be exposed to it, and they need to know how to react. By being a role model and having important conversations, you can teach them to respect and appreciate all other human beings.
This is a partnered post.