How to Talk to Your Kids about Racism
Is it too early to start talking to young kids about race? Experts say the answer is no, even if your child is still a baby. Research shows babies start to identify differences in skin color, hair, and eyes long before they can talk. Teaching them to appreciate differences and see beauty in diversity can start from day one.
As children get a bit older, they can understand ideas about racism and bias. Sesame Street and CNN recently teamed up for a town hall aimed at helping toddlers and preschoolers – and their parents – talk about racism and the protests around the country that followed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In the special, Elmo’s dad explained “Racism is when people treat other people unfairly because of the way they look or the color of their skin.” In response to a question about the protesters, Elmo’s dad said “They are sad and upset and they have every right to be, Elmo. People are upset because racism is a huge problem in our country.”
The Sesame Street CNN town hall is one of many antiracism resources geared toward young children and their caregivers. New York Times bestselling author and scholar Ibram X. Kendi’s children's book Antiracist Baby was released in mid-June, with a picture book coming later this month.
“We must teach our children notions of equity and justice before they can fully understand these concepts just as we teach them kindness and love before they can fully understand these concepts,” Kendi wrote on Facebook in promoting his new book.
It is important that young children see the adults in their lives promoting positive change. First Steps Kent has compiled a list of resources to encourage and help parents talk with their children – starting in infancy – about race and racism.
- The Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi is a board book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves. It is geared toward kids ages 2-3. Follow Antiracist Baby's nine easy steps for building a more equitable world.
- Sesame Street and CNN teamed up for Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism, a town hall for kids and families.
- Libraries and bookstores can help you identify books featuring protagonists who are People of Color. As you are reading, talk about racial differences in positive ways. Kent District Library has a list of resources and books for kids.
- Raising Race Conscious Children is a resource to support adults who are trying to talk about race with young children. It includes a list of 100 things you can do to raise Race-Conscious Children that can help you get started.
- Child Trends has rounded up Resources to Support Children’s Emotional Well-Being Amid Anti-Black Racism, Racial Violence, and Trauma. It focuses on how to prepare yourself first, limiting children’s exposure to media, and how to listen carefully to children. It can be found here.
- Something Happened in Our Town, by Marianne Celano, PhD, ABPP, Marietta Collins, PhD, and Ann Hazzard, PhD, ABPP is a book that puts racial injustice, and unfair death by police, into a story that children ages 5-10 can understand. This animated version is available as well.
- Embracerace.org is a multiracial community dedicated to nurturing resilience in children of color and fostering inclusive, empathic kids of all backgrounds. Also, Supporting Kids Of Color In the Wake Of Racialized Violence is a podcast featuring the co-founders of EmbraceRace, parents, teachers, and child psychologists.
- Are Your Kids Too Young To Talk About Race? is a roundup of research and resources from the Children’s Community School.
- CommonSenseMedia.org has a lot of resources, information, and media recommendations to help parents spark conversations with children of all ages about race and racism.
- Locally, the Great Start Collaborative and First Steps Kent were involved in the creation of The Parent Manifesto. This manifesto is a guide for early childhood agencies and systems to help them address inequities and racism by giving parents a voice and opportunity to be engaged and lead at all levels of change. It includes five outcomes for change: 1. Challenge Racism, 2. Embrace Parent Leadership, 3. Prioritize Resources, 4. Create Career Pathways, and 5. Maximize Equitable Outcomes. Read the full Parenting Manifesto here, and learn how you can get involved.