Many parents do not realize that children recognize race at a very early age. In fact, research shows this at six months, they notice racial differences; preschoolers show a bias towards the group when choosing friends; and from primary school, children recognize inequality of power in skin color.
Raising children who are aware of the problems of social justice requires open, honest conversations and modeling of inclusive practices. Of course, there is no reliable way to discuss the complexity of race.
That is why, as a professor who teaches the development of racial identity, I always tell parents to prepare for a constant and sometimes confusing conversation. However, the effort to create more belonging, inclusion and compassion in the world is worth it.
Here are four things that parents who raise compassionate, inclusive, and self-aware children do when talking about race:
Children pay attention to physical differences, including skin color, facial features, hair color and texture. Creating categories is the way they make sense of the world and try to name and rationalize these differences.
If your child notices and comments on someone’s skin color, support their curious questions and comments: “Hmmm, you’re right. This is a great observation. It’s nice to see different types of people and skin.
It’s also great to talk about “why” and “how”: “Did you know that everyone’s skin color is different because of the amount of melanin in their body? The more you have, the darker your skin. When you have less melanin in your body, your skin will look lighter. ”
Our race and ethnicity are part of our identity and bring us pride and a sense of belonging. But it is also important to note that race is a concept that has changed over time.
Race has been used throughout history to grant unjust privileges to some groups while hurting others. We all have biases and these ideas are passed on to our children through daily interactions.
Talk about your own biases and stereotypes that your children may have internalized: “Sometimes we have assumptions about people based on their race or gender. Do you ever do it? keep that in mind. “
These moments can be a great way to practice vulnerability and compassion with your children.
Anti-racism is the practice of actively working to eliminate unfair treatment of people based on their skin color. It is the dismantling of laws, policies, attitudes, behaviors and practices that are unfair and unjust.
The aim is to actively fight racism, not to be complacent in our position of faith in justice. Support your child’s natural desire to help others through thoughtful conversations: “Sometimes we need to talk when things aren’t fair, even when it’s hard. No problem telling me you’re scared. I’m scared too.
Another example of what you might say is, “When you stand up for people who are different from you and you want the world to be better for them, you become an ally. An ally is like a good friend who always takes care of you. treated fairly and always on your side. “
Action, however small, is the basis of anti-racist work.
Children rely on their existing scheme to make sense of the world. Every time you reinforce your values around race or racism, you allow them to make connections and reorganize their existing knowledge.
The more you see gaps in your children’s knowledge, the more you know what specific conversations are needed.
Ask open-ended questions to see what they know, what they need to learn, and where more dialogue is needed: “Can you tell me more?” – What else do you know? “Can you explain that idea to me?” – How does it make you feel? “What would you do?” “How can we help?”
When mistakes happen, think, apologize if necessary, be kind to yourself, and reaffirm that you are committed to learning and growing.
Dr. Tracy Bucksley is a professor, parent coach and author of “Socially just parenting: How to raise compassionate children who are committed to justice against racism in an unjust world.” A teacher for over 30 years with degrees in child development, primary education and a curriculum, she specializes in diversity and inclusion, the anti-bias curriculum and social justice education. Follow her @socialjusticparenting.
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