As parents there are so many values we want to instill in our children but these can also be tough conversations to have. If nothing more, it is our jobs to raise kind humans! A conversation on race can look different for parents depending on your child’s race and age but the end goal should be the same, tolerance and kindness. No matter what your race, ethnicity or nationality teaching your children about race is so important. This also shouldn’t just be a one and done kind of talk – make this an ongoing conversation in your household! As they get older you can give them more history and details into race relations – this can also be a great way for you to continue learning! It is also important to remember that it’s not just about words, actions are also key! Our children watch us intently and repeat the things that we do. If they see us going the extra step to be kind and tolerant to those that don’t look like us, they will do the same.
At some point your child will start to realize that their friends or family have different skin tones, hair textures and facial features. Especially in their toddler years, kids can be so blunt and they ask tons of questions! You can use this as an opportunity to start teaching them about race. It is okay for kids to see differences, in fact, the wide range of differences is what make humans so cool! Every culture and race has features that make them beautiful and unique – this is where teaching tolerance comes into play. Showing your children that no matter what someone looks like, we will always treat them with kindness and respect.
As a black mother raising a black daughter teaching her about tolerance and kindness is only part of the lesson. The last part involves self-love and appreciation. So often in underrepresented communities, we come to be ashamed or disappointed in features that make us beautiful. I constantly praise Arya for being smart, powerful, and strong, but I also remind her often that she is beautiful. Every day I remind her how fabulous her hair is, how beautiful her brown eyes are, how perfect her brown skin is. It is important that these messages are ingrained in her because in the blink of an eye she won’t be an innocent toddler but an impressionable young girl soaking in the world’s perspective on beauty and what is good and I want to empower her early to combat that with self-love. Here are my tips on having conversations on raise with your little ones:
Start early! Children are smart and see racial differences at a young age.
Create a Safe Space. Let your children know that they are free to ask you any questions they may have without judgement. And if you don’t know the answer, be honest and let them know you will work to find out
Exposure. Provide your children with a diverse range of toys, movies, tv shows and books. Put them in a school or activities where they can play with children of different races.
Share your experiences. Talk to your children about their family’s history and experiences. Let them know your journey and what you have learned along the way.