Part 2: How do we talk to children about race?

Posted on by EC3 Staff


When we don’t give young children the words to talk about our differences and race, it becomes something they view as forbidden and dangerous. That leads to fear and mistrust. Building awareness and respectful understanding early on can positively impact racial views in the future.

Uncomfortable talking about race? Your children will be too. It’s important that we help children have the right language to openly discuss this topic in a good way. We don’t use the term “colorblind” or say that “we don’t see race,” because those things simply are not so. But we can note differences in positive words we are comfortable with and able to express. Children notice racial differences around age three. Talk about it when they bring it up. This helps children know that it’s a welcome thing to discuss with the right words in a respectful way from the start. If we aren’t scared to have positive discussions about race an diversity, we will all be better off for it.

Here are the ways EC3 teachers and parents can help kids find the words to talk about race:

1. Highlight similarities and differences in appearance by using positive affirmations. Children might note something specific about skin color, hair, or appearance. Acknowledge them in a positive light and add a similarity that they share with that person for positive comparison.
Example Question: “Why is her face brown?”
Example Answer: “People come in all different shapes, sizes, colors and tones. Some people are light brown and others are like buttermilk and some are like cocoa. She loves to color with markers, just like you.”

Example Question: “What is Hank? He’s not black but he’s not really white?”
Example Answer: “We ask who Hank is, not what he is. People come in all different shapes sizes and colors. Hank loves toy trucks like you do.”

2. Never shush or shame a child’s statement about skin color but do initiate their statement in a positive light.

3. Seize these moments as a chance to talk about differences in a good way. This helps children develop healthy attitudes about their own race and others racial identities.
Example Question: “Lucy’s mom is white and her dad is black. Isn’t that weird?”
Example Answer: “Lucy’s parents do have different skin colors, but that doesn’t make them weird. Families come in all shapes and colors, and they love Lucy just like we love you.”

If we can help give children the right tools to talk about race early on, it will help us all find the words to talk about diversity in a more comfortable way later.

Part 3 will talk about disabilities and inclusion. Stay tuned!

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