Adults often wonder when it is most appropriate to talk to children about race. Generally speaking, Black parents find themselves talking to their children about race at younger ages due to the racial bias Black children face. Talking to children about race is an important and necessary issue. Here are some ways to start those critical conversations with children:
1) Start by doing your own research. Make sure you are providing children correct and concrete information. Search online resources such as
Raising Race Conscious Children - raceconscious.org
Embrace Race - embracerace.org
Teaching Tolerance - tolerance.org
2) Do not shy away from having those difficult discussions with children. They may know more than you think. Children may be very inquisitive and when they begin to question what's going on around them, they usually expect their parents to have the answers. Allow children to ask questions about what they have seen/heard and be prepared to respond. Being honest with children is sometimes difficult but we must share truth about racism and oppression. Children are very observant and will mimic what they see and hear. Help them make sense of the reasons for protest and cries for justice.
3) Read diverse books to children and have discussions about how to overcome biases. When sharing stories to children about racial oppression, teach children to appreciate the contributions of both men and women.
4) Talk about history and family traditions to foster love and appreciation for one's own race, ethnicity, and/or cultural group. You may also tell stories about how family members faced and overcame racial challenges. Children should learn both positive and less favorable parts of history in order to appreciate their culture and yet, understand that the challenges they face are not unique to them.
5) Discuss other racial/ethnic groups. Explain to children that different racial and ethnic groups may believe different things and have varying traditional norms. Diversity should be appreciated and not frowned upon.
6) Ask your children about their experiences with friends or school. Validate their feelings. Ask, "How do you feel about that?" and allow children to process their feelings. Most importantly, LISTEN to your child. Allowing them to express their feelings through art is another creative way to spend quality time and help your child express thoughts and feelings when they may not have the language to do so. Asking children how they feel may lead to discussions about where their feelings are coming from and what it means from their perspective.