Racial equality and systemic racism are important topics and it is never too early to start engaging children in discussion about them.
This year the Black Lives Matter movement and other racial justice movements gained momentum as protests, demonstrations, and other events were held following the highly publicized and controversial deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others.
While modern-day racism and historic injustices may be uncomfortable to talk about, it is important that children have an opportunity to learn about these issues. It is likely that even young children have experienced discrimination and have also heard and seen news stories or adult conversation about the topic of race.
It is critical for parents, teachers, caregivers and older siblings to be proactive in educating children about racial justice issues and giving them an outlet to share their thoughts, feelings and questions. Here are five tips for talking to children about race.
- Validate their emotions. Express compassion for the child’s emotions and expression. It is normal to feel sad, confused, shameful, guilty, angry or afraid in reaction to hearing about racial injustice and inequality.
- Ask lots of questions. Don’t assume you know what a child is feeling or that you have all the answers. Ask questions based out of curiosity and not out of a desire to prove a point or justify your own position.
- Admit your own bias or ignorance. A conversation about race has no room for a high horse. As an adult, set an example by admitting the areas where you struggle or carry bias, as well as the areas where you don’t have all the information.
- Research other resources. You might not know how to answer certain questions, and that’s okay. Do your own research ahead of time and find child-friendly books and resources that can also help educate and inform.
- Empower change. It is our job to equip and empower the next generation to make better, more equitable and informed choices. Encourage children to make a difference in their own way and help them access the tools and resources they need.
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