Five Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Race

August 27, 2020

With so much focus placed on the issue of race in our country right now, it’s very likely that the children in your life may be asking challenging questions. Many parents and caregivers are wondering what they can do help promote tolerance at home. Following are things to bear in mind, as well as useful resources, that we hope will help as you begin or continue the process of addressing race with your little ones.

It’s never too early to teach inclusivity, empathy, and respect!

Children become aware of race and skin color earlier than you might think. Even the littlest ones are extremely perceptive. As this article points out, research suggests that children as young as 15 months already notice race and express racial preferences. By the time they enter kindergarten, children tend to display racial prejudices that are similar to those of the adults in their lives (Dunham, Baron, & Banaji, 2008; Katz & Kofkin, 1997; Killen, Crystal, & Ruck, 2007).

Kids ask questions about race. And that’s okay!

As this National Geographic article points out, kids are not at all shy about asking questions related to skin color. Don’t avoid talking about it. After all, change can’t happen without having candid conversations. These questions can be turned into an opportunity for dialogue. Or, if your child learns best by looking at something rather than listening or talking, videos like these can be fun, entertaining, and, most importantly, effective in dealing with a very complex issue.

Ensure the media children consume is diverse.

Shows, movies, and books are great teaching tools. After all, kids love their screen time or, even better, having you read to them. As you choose the media that they consume, aim to include as much diversity as possible. The following lists offer recommendations to get you started:

Looking for Excellent “Diverse” Books for Children? Start Here

37 Children’s Books to Talk About Racism and Discrimination

14 Kid-Friendly Movies to Help Build a Conversation About Race and Racism

You are your child’s most important teacher.

Kids learn how to treat people by watching how the adults in their lives interact with others. So, it’s important that parents and caregivers understand their own relationship with race and bias. As the Teaching Tolerance website points out, “our willingness to examine our own possible biases is an important step in understanding the roots of stereotypes and prejudice in our society.” Consider using this tool to test your own hidden biases. Spoiler alert: we all have them. This is by no means intended as judgement; it’s just encouragement to better understand yourself.

Children (and adults!) are most open to learning when they feel safe.

Right now, is a particularly challenging time in our country and the world. It can feel very unsafe even for us adults. It’s not surprising, then, that children may need extra attention and affection. We have compiled a few resources that can help you support children during these stressful times and help you to create as safe and comforting an environment as possible.

Helping Children Feel Safe in Stressful Times

Helping Children Cope with Frightening News

Racism and Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News

We hope this has been helpful! Let us know what you think by sharing your experiences in discussing race and tolerance with the children in your life.