“Changing how we see, deal and cope with racism, hate and intolerance can instill values in our children that can eradicate acts of prejudice against others,” says Dr. Shefali Gandhi, a licensed psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona. “When talking to your children about racism, teach them to be accountable for their actions and to become a true ally to all individuals, communities and populations.”
Science shows that the earlier the accountability conversation starts, the better. When speaking with children in this age range, focus on empathy, talk about how others feel about their actions, and help them test action/reaction through actively identifying events where they made someone else feel good through their kind/empathic actions.
Children in this age range begin to notice and talk about differences in physical appearance. They’ll wonder if skin color means something about someone. They may notice their skin color impacts who they’re friends with in class or on the playground. These are teachable moments to talk about friendships, empathy, values about who we make friends with, and how to ensure that they understand that skin color is one aspect of a whole person, community and society.
Often times, children may ask questions about race and color in a social setting. While you may feel embarrassed by such pointed questions, use the moment to ask your child about why they’re noticing these differences and how does it make them feel. Then take the opportunity to talk with them about how everyone is different and what matters is that we treat everyone with kindness in all situations.
Asks questions about differences or similarities.
Identifies and recognizes differences and similarities.
Always includes others.
Shows concern about how others feel.
Does not tease others about how they look.
Understands their actions can help or hurt others.
Celebrate differences and identify similarities.
Be open. Make sure they know they can ask you anything and that they don’t have to feel bad about their questions and thoughts.
Become aware of any issues you personally may have with race, ethnicity, gender, etc. Self-awareness is the first step to becoming an ally.
Model appropriate language.
Recognize that we all have bias and prejudice, but be open to learning new ideals and values.
Identify times they made others feel good and included, and displayed acts of kindness.
Talk about equality and fairness. Explain what it means by describing examples.
Talk about diversity and inclusivity. Emphasize that we include everyone no matter what they look like.
Teach them to identify how they’re the same and how they’re different from others.
Show them how to develop self-awareness and an appreciation of who they are.
“Did your action make the other person feel good, happy or loved? Our actions affect how others feel. We always want to make sure our actions do not hurt others.”
“The color of our skin is just one part of us that makes us the same or different. What else makes us the same and different? Are we all more similar or different?”
“I saw that you included all your friends to play. I am so proud of you! We always ask everyone to play and let them choose if they want to do something different.”