Did you know according to The Center for Child Welfare at the University of South Florida, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences as early as 6 months? By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias and by age 5 children start to apply stereotypes and begin to categorize and express bias by race. By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.
As a parent, you have the opportunity to help your child process what’s going on in the world. These types of conversations can be difficult to have, but there are many ways to approach them that can make them easier and more successful. Here are a few resources for parents with tips on how to talk to your child about protests and racism:
TALK, READ, SING, a Champions for Children program, advocates the importance of talking, reading, and singing to your child. Introducing cultured books that touch on diversity, racism and protests can be a gateway to having a conversation with your child about these topics. Bookshop has a list of books representing a range of cultural backgrounds and viewpoints that can be purchased directly from their website. You can also check the Hillsborough County Library System to see if a particular book is available to borrow for free! “A Kids Book About Racism” is also a good read for children. Click here for the read-aloud by author, Jelani Memory.
Watching TV shows, Videos or Movies
CNN and Sesame Street, a child-favorite, have used their shared platforms to talk about racism, protests and equality in a way that children can understand. Here are the best moments from CNN and Sesame Street’s joint town hall for kids and parents on the subject of racism.
Watching a movie with your child – especially an animated movie – can form a good gateway to have conversations with your child about diversity, protest and racism. You can ask open-ended questions about the characters like: What do you notice about the princesses? Do you think anyone can be a princess? Do they have to have a certain skin color or look a certain way? This allows your child to learn about diversity and the issue of race through experience.
Paula Wayne, Baby Bungalow Director and Child Development expert says,
“A part of developing a ‘concept of self,’ children are somewhat ‘wired’ to perceive differences and not similarities. So by identifying what is different about others, helps them come to a better understanding of their own unique qualities. Young children are also challenged to consider more than one or two characteristics at a time, so more ‘obvious’ differences, like skin color, tend to be a focus.”
Click here for more tips about using TV shows or movies to talk about racism.
Having an open conversation
The Center for Child Welfare at the University of South Florida has resources available to help parents have an open conversation with their children about racism. Embrace Race created an informative tip guide to provide 10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids about Race. Some of these tips include encouraging your child to ask questions about race, facing your own biases, and to plan for a marathon, not a sprint. It’s okay to not know how to answer a question your child may have, but make sure you do address their question once you have an answer.
Discussing discrimination, and in particular racial bias, can be hard enough for adults. However, talking to kids about the subject can be especially challenging. It may be uncomfortable to discuss racial differences and how some groups of people are unfairly treated by society, but experts from The Center for Child Welfare say diversity, racism and discrimination are subjects that shouldn’t be ignored.