children of different races sitting together in a circle

How to Talk to Your Children About Racial Issues

There are countless ways to talk with your children about important issues. As for choosing the “right” way, well, that will sometimes depend on individual circumstances. Keep this in mind as you approach conversations about racial issues. Sure, there are challenges when discussing such topics but do not postpone this duty. By the time your children are six months old, they can notice racial differences. It’s been shown that some four-year-olds are already displaying race bias.

The goal is not “color blindness.” You want your children to recognize differences. The key is being open to talking about what those differences mean and what they don’t mean.

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Racial Issues

1. Educate Yourself

This is the foundational step. Learn the facts, learn about history, and stay in touch with new developments. If you don’t live in a diverse area, go out of your way to expose yourselves to museums, films, and other cultural opportunities. Share inspirational stories with your children but don’t go over the top with sharing information. You want to avoid making them feel like they’re in school or under pressure.

Also, in your journey of self-education, you may face complicated questions from your children. If you’re not sure about the answer, tell them. Be a role model by doing more work and then coming back to the discussion.

2. Be Age-Appropriate

  • Preschool: Use simple lessons like right vs. wrong and fair vs. unfair.
  • School-Age: Give them examples they can relate to and, over time, apply those examples to society at large. Focus on basic emotions like empathy and compassion — encouraging them to think big when contemplating them.
  • Adolescents and Teens: This is where you can speak directly to real-life experiences. All across the globe, older kids will find themselves in situations where they have to make moral choices. You are in an excellent position to guide and support them.

3. Lead By Example

Children of all ages watch their parents closely. It’s one thing to talk about racial justice. The truth lies in your behavior. Empower your kids by giving them the opportunity to watch you in action. When you refuse to be a bystander, it not only speaks volumes but will inspire many more questions and conversations.

children of different races sitting together in a circle4. Welcome and Ask Questions

Never, ever shut down a question or a line of thinking. Developing a perspective on racial issues requires a fair amount of trial and error. A child cannot process nuanced issues without asking lots of questions and taking a few missteps.

In turn, be sure that you ask lots of questions, too. Ask your child for their thoughts and opinions on stories in the news or incidents at their school. Give them space to answer and use that as a launching pad for more conversations. If you settle on a topic that is unfamiliar to both of you, research together to learn more.

5. Make the Conversations a Regular Thing

Racial issues are not about a one-time conversation. Like all important aspects of being human, it is a process without a finish line. Find ways to keep the discussions going and make it crystal clear that your kids can come to you — anytime — with questions, ideas, and concerns.

What If You Don’t Know How to Start This Work?

Short answer: It’s normal. No one should be expected to have all the answers. The keys are intention and motivation. If you find yourself struggling and feeling unable to reach your children, it could be very helpful to get some guidance. Working with a therapist is a proven path toward more confidence and better communication. Let’s connect and talk soon about how child therapy or teen counseling can help.

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