Talking about Race and Racism

Introducing your child to what racism is can be a daunting and deeply emotional task. How do you start talking about it? What are the right things to say? How can you help your child be an ally? How can you help your child be brave? These resources can give you guidance on how to begin and sustain an open dialogue with your child about racial issues. 

Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First 

As parents, we can benefit from first tuning in to our own emotions, thoughts, and awareness on issues of racism so that we’re ready to have an authentic conversation with our children and able to provide them with support and guidance. This can range from seeking self-care and support, to gaining a deeper understanding ourselves about racism, to confronting our own biases. Below are a range of resources for parents all along the continuum of understanding about institutional racism. 

An Educators Guide to This Moment Equity Initiatives Unit of Montgomery County Public Schools.  This excellent and comprehensive guide contains a range of helpful resources and tools; the resources in the Context and Educate Yourself sections are particularly helpful for preparing yourself to help your children. 

How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion / Peggy McIntosh at TEDxTimberlaneSchools.    

12 Therapy And Wellness Resources For Black Mental Health / I Don’t Mind, a mental health awareness campaign and program of Mental Health America.

Seeing White / Scene on Radio, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. This Peabody-nominated 14-part podcast series exploring whiteness in America—where it came from, what it means, and how it works. 

Reflecting Upon Your Own Biases / Teaching Tolerance. 

“The recent events…are not new to our society, but they have once again forced us to see the pervasive injustice, inequality and hate that African Americans face every day in our communities. Events like these impact us and our society as a whole but, depending on our race, we do not experience them in the same way.” 

Talking to Your Child about Race and Racism  

Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice / Teaching Tolerance.   

Whether you are the parent of a 3-year-old who is curious about why a friend’s skin is brown, the parent of a 9-year-old who has been called a slur because of his religion, or the parent of a 15-year-old who snubs those outside of her social clique at school, this book is designed to help you teach your children to honor the differences in themselves and in others — and to reject prejudice and intolerance. 

Talking to Children About Racial Bias / American Academy of Pediatrics. 

“The process of learning racial bias is a lot like learning a new language… But like language immersion, children exposed to society will gain fluency in racial bias even if their parents do nothing.” 

Talking About Race / National Museum of African American History & Culture.  A multi-dimensional resource customizable for parents, educators, and others committed to equity. 

How To Really Read Racist Books to Your Kids / Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Racism and Violence: Using Your Power as a Parent to Support Children Aged Two to Five / Zero to Three. 

The Dos and Donts of Talking to Kids of Color About White Supremacy / Colorlines. 

These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids / New York Times.   

“Make sure to create space for your child to feel however they need to feel about what you’re discussing — they may be angry, sad or scared.” 

Handling Racial Bias When It’s Directed Toward Your Family 

Your child may be experiencing racism or you may be wondering how to best prepare them for any situation that might arise. Here are some resources that may help you have a conversation with your child. 

The Little Understood Mental-Health Effects of Racial Trauma / The Cut.  

“Racial trauma is experiencing psychological symptoms such as anxiety, hypervigilance to threat, or lack of hopefulness for your future as a result of repeated exposure to racism or discrimination” 

Six Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Racism Psychology Today. 

“Don’t tell your kids to ignore the racism. Racism doesn’t go away just because they look the other way.” 

We Had the Talk with Our Sons *Being Black in America, / Beleaf in Fatherhood.  This video shows a family having ‘the talk about anti-black racism in America with their young sons. 

Encouraging Resilience, Allyship and Bravery 

Once your child learns about racism they may be able to identify how it manifests in real life. How can you help them prepare for that moment so they take action and do the right thing?   

How to Help Children Build Resilience in Uncertain Times / American Academy of Pediatrics.

“​One of the most respectful things we can do is genuinely understand someone else’s point of view. The best way for children to gain this perspective is by benefitting from it firsthand.” 

White Kids Need to Start Using Their Privilege for Good — Here’s How to Teach Them / She Knows. 

“The most important and often the hardest part of allyship is standing in solidarity with the oppressed because this can lead to a certain amount of risk for the ally. However, in today’s age of cell phones and social media, white parents can teach their kids to be allies to their peers of color in ways that are more effective (and easier) than they’ve ever been before.” 

Anti-Racism for Kids: An Age-by-Age Guide to Fighting Hate / Parents magazine 

If your child has little exposure to people who don’t look or live like her, though, experts advise bringing the world home: Study other cultures together by eating their foods and watching their films.” 

Addressing Current Events 

No matter how you and your family choose to consume the news, difficult topics will come up and it’s important to talk them through. Whether your child heard about the protests and violence through a friend or found it online, the best way to start that conversation is to find out what they already know and go from there. 

Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events / American Academy of Pediatrics 

“No matter what age or developmental stage the child is, parents can start by asking a child what they’ve already heard. Most children will have heard something, no matter how old they are.” 

Racism and Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News (version in English and Spanish) / The Child Mind Institute 

“Start by checking in with your child. Kids, even very young ones, are extremely perceptive, and they may have worries or concerns they don’t know how to express.”

View PEP’s Statement about racial and social equity here.

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