Tips for Talking with Children about Racism
FROM CARRIE C. KUBACKI, POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT EXTENSION EDUCATOR, UW-MADISON DIVISION OF EXTENSION
With another series of events leading our nation and world to address racial discrimination and violence, many parents and caregivers may be wondering the best way to discuss this topic. How often and how much should I talk about? Do I discuss my own feelings and experiences? How do I help to inform and educate without creating more stress in my child? Below are some tips offered by parenting experts in the field of racism to help us with this ongoing conversation:
- Take care of yourself first. Because the secondary trauma of racial discrimination and violence is real, we must be in a mental and emotionally healthy place before talking with children.
- Start at an early age. Research shows that infants as young as six months can already notice racial differences, and children as young as four years old may already be showing signs of racial bias.
- Encourage your child to ask questions, share their experiences and be respectfully curious. Provide accurate information and validate their feelings as much as needed during these talks.
- Build empathy and perspective taking. Allow your child to process and discuss how he/she thinks other people are feeling when they experience racial bias and violence.
- Limit the type and amount of racial violence that your child sees on television and social media. Have age appropriate discussions about these situations in controlled settings rather than having children watch these events on their own.
- Acknowledge and own your own personal bias. Share with you child what steps you have taken to address your own bias.
- Be a role model for your child. Demonstrate and help your child to learn how to stand up to racial bias and discrimination by using verbal messages and taking direct action.
- Plan for long-term conversations, rather than a one-time discussion. Overcoming racial bias and working toward building equity will take our children, our families and our communities a life-time of learning, growth and change to accomplish.
An open and honest discussion about racial bias and violence is a much needed step at this time to help our children understand what is occurring in our cities, states, nation and world. We can all work to be a part of building equity and transforming communities. For more information about discussing race and equity, please visit: https://www.embracerace.org/resources.