If you’re not a target of racism, you have the privilege of not talking about it. Choosing this path, however, is a pretty clear way to maintain the status quo. This is why it can be so important for you to start the conversation with your children. Sure, some topics are difficult but that’s never a reason to avoid them. If your child was concerned about drugs or bullying, you’d certainly step up and help.
Children are not oblivious to race and racism. Babies as young as six months can notice physical differences, e.g. skin color. Translation: It’s never too early to lead by example.
How to Prepare Yourself for The Discussions
Be Wary of Social Media and News Stories
The aim of these outlets — like any other business — is to maximize profit. This means certain perspectives and angles can be emphasized in the name of increasing their audience. Train yourself to discern such trends. Also, take news breaks to give yourself time to digest and process.
Take Stock in What You Think
What are your beliefs, values, and possible blind spots on a topic like race? Before serving as a message or mentor, get a handle on where you are in this particular journey.
Be Willing to Learn and Grow
Consult with a broad range of sources. Commit to an ongoing path of learning. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. This gives you the chance to be a role model when you remedy that situation.
How To Start The Conversation With Children About Racial Issues
Obviously, every single conversation will be different. There are too many variables to address here but we will focus on a big one: age. To follow are some age-based suggestions to get things started.
Under 5 Years of Age
By the time they’re five, your children may unknowingly behave in a way that demonstrates their awareness of racial differences. They may openly comment on traits like skin color. This is a golden opportunity to begin a simple but necessary conversation.
- Don’t silence them or create any stigma
- Encourage their questions
- Celebrate differences openly
- Relate any discussion of discrimination to the child’s concept of fair and unfair
Under 12 Years of Age
Suddenly, your child is forming far more complex questions and opinions. At the same time, they are being exposed to an extremely wide scope of content. Stay connected with them about what they are seeing and how it makes them feel. Embrace the chance to read what they’re reading and watch what they’re watching. This will allow you to ask them some specific questions.
Children in this age group can understand concepts like stereotypes. Introduce such conversations when they watch a movie or read a book. Most importantly, be very open. Let them know you can be trusted to handle challenging questions. Also, as they begin to enter the world of social media, do your best to monitor how this impacts them.
12 and Older
As the teenage years hit, you may have to be more creative in getting your kids to sit down and discuss deep topics. You can start this process by staying aware of what they currently know when it comes to race, racism, discrimination, etc. Get to know their friends and see what their mindsets are like. Teenagers are often excited to try activism. Make yourself available to discuss these efforts and participate with them when it feels appropriate.
Keep Checking on Yourself
Times change quickly. If you feel a little lost and unable to keep up, it could help immensely to have someone to talk with. Child therapy is an ideal venue to assist you on this tricky journey, reach out to us so we can talk about how we can help you.