Aileen Fullchange, Ph.D.
Inaugural blog post: how to talk to kids about race
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
As a parent, you may feel anxious about talking about race with your child. Maybe you're worried about what to say. Perhaps you have concerns about "saying the wrong thing." Many parents share this feeling. Unfortunately, race has become a four-letter word in our society. But not talking about race does not make race or racism go away. In fact, research shows that children begin to notice skin color as young as infancy and begin to categorize people by race as toddlers. In other words, children are not colorblind.
The most important thing about talking about race is simply to talk about race. Don't avoid the topic. Especially if your child brings up the topic, be curious and ask your child about what they notice about race, what they've learned about race, and the sources of their learnings. Acknowledge differences in skin color and physical appearance (e.g. "Yes, your friend does have a darker/lighter skin color than you"). Correct information that your child has learned that may be incorrect (e.g. "There are some people who believe that, but that's actually not true; let's talk about what is true"). Encourage your child to also notice what they have in common with others of different races (e.g. "Your classmate does look different than you. Are there also ways in which you are similar, like do you notice that you both want to be want to be the same thing when you grow up?").
Lastly, model making and repairing mistakes. It is normal and expected that all of us will make unintentional mistakes when we talk about this topic. Life is not about doing everything perfectly. Rather, take-on a growth mindset, measuring how well you are doing as a parent based on how much you are learning and growing rather than how perfectly you are parenting. Modeling that is okay to make mistakes can actually help kids to be more likely to take ownership of their mistakes. Now, imagine that: a society where all of us had learned that it's okay to admit and then take ownership for our mistakes. If that had happened, perhaps racism would not be a problem today.
Want support with your own experiences of racism? Want support with your child's experiences of racism? Or want support with just talking to your child about race and racism? Call now for a free 15-minute consultation.