How do I talk to my child about race?
As a parent, I try (although I’ve missed some opportunities) to get ahead of the tough conversations that my children are likely to hear from their peers and other sources. My husband and I believe that if we can talk to our kids early, our children will develop a mental working model that they can use as a filter to make sense of their world. And while police brutality and the racial injustices of African-American populations in this country isn’t new, the climate that we are living in today creates a good opportunity to have discussions about the historical underpinnings of race, privilege, discrimination, and injustice in our society, so that our children can begin to make sense of what’s going on with parental guidance.
The depth of the conversations should vary according to development, age, and readiness, and if your child has already been exposed to the images of protests. For older children, it may be helpful to start by looking at news clips of the protests with your child and simply asking...”What do you see?” What are your thoughts? What are you thinking? Let their responses and questions guide how you begin the conversation. For younger children who may not have been exposed to the current issues, you can begin the conversation by reading children’s books that illustrate or reflect diverse populations. Books that focus on celebrating diversity are helpful, but so are books about people from various backgrounds with the typical everyday storylines. Yes, we are all human and share commonalities in our emotions, but what makes humanity special is that we come from different families, backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.
What can I do as a parent to raise an anti-racist child?
I think the best thing that we can do as parents is to continue to model, teach, and embed the qualities of kindness, empathy, acceptance, inclusivity, and equity into raising our children. Children develop these qualities from watching their parents, immediate caregivers, and their interactions in social circles. These qualities can be generalized in any setting and transcend the interactions and experiences that children have with their peers, people in their community, and people who they don’t know personally. We can promote kindness by teaching and modeling doing good things for others, showing acts of goodwill, and treating others with respect, irrespective of interpersonal differences. We can develop empathy by making it a priority to talk about feelings and emotions at home. It starts by providing young children with the vocabulary to describe their feelings, discussing our feelings as parents, and using these experiences as the foundation to get them to understand the feelings of others. We can promote acceptance and inclusivity by integrating diversity in everyday life and this extends beyond race. This means exposing children to different cultures, family dynamics, foods, practices, perspectives, children’s books, and entertainment. We can promote equity by having conversations about fairness, privilege, and by asking the question, “do all people have what they need to survive and, if not, why is that the case?”
Written by, Jeri Baucum McKinney, Ph.D., NCSP | Director of Student Support Services Casady School