Talking with Children about Race

Author: Adrian Williams
June 01, 2020

How old should my kids be before I start talking to them about current racial issues? I remember being told that children don’t see these things, but I don’t want to wait too long.

One of the most traveled myths is that children don’t see race.  As the research in the above infographic shows, even before they can talk, children notice the differences, and not long after begin to use what they see other people doing to make their own reasons and judgements.  If you want to get more into the why and how these things work, I highly suggest the link to the Children’s Community School.

Yet, even knowing that its’ never too young to start talking about race, it is not always an easy conversation to have. How do we teach children about tolerance and diversity? While we live in a time where many areas are becoming increasingly diverse, racism and intolerance still exist. Here are 5 ways to help teach children about diversity and tolerance.

  1. Practice what you preach: Children’s first lessons about how the world works are based on what they see and hear. Parents and family members are the main educators when it comes to this way of learning, so they first and foremost need to see you accepting others for who they are and standing for justice. This also means arranging playdates and activities with others from diverse backgrounds.
  2. Discuss tolerance and diversity honestly: Another well traveled myth is “we don’t see color.” Truth is, people do come in different colors and it is far more important to teach children to accept others and embrace differences instead of pretending differenced do not exist.
  3. Correct cultural insensitivity: Sometimes children repeat things without knowing that what they are saying could offend someone. It is important to correct them and explain why it is unacceptable to speak negatively about people because they are different.  It is likewise important to correct others in front of your children. The disconnect between who can say what in these situations is important to correct.
  4. Help children embrace their own culture: This is helpful because when a child accepts themselves and sees themselves in a positive light, they are less likely to see those different than them as threats.  We are more likely to respect others, when we first appreciate and respect ourselves.
  5. Complete diversity and tolerance activities together: This can include many great books that teach how we need to accept others for who they are and the strength of diversity. Also, could include watching movies like Brave, Wreck it Ralph, or Shrek and discussing elements of diversity and tolerance that come up during the films. It can also include education about clothing or music from different cultures and why those things are important to some people from those cultures and how they are used.  For more ideas check out Kiddiematters.com!

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