Addressing acts of racism, prejudice, hate and intolerance can be a daunting task for anyone raising a child. Start by opening up conversations about acceptance, inclusivity, tolerance, prejudice, self-awareness and privilege. Doing so can open their (and your) worldview to become an ally for targeted individuals, communities and populations.
“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 the pre-k 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.
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.
Talk about empathy.
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 acceptance of others.
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.