How to talk about racial diversity and inclusion with your kids

By Brittany Farrar on 1st Jul 2020

Children smiling

From the pandemic starting in March to the recent events shedding light on racial injustices, our children are being exposed to a lot of stress. The last one, in particular, has many children asking parents hard questions related to race and inclusion. Talking to your kids about racial inclusion can be difficult to approach. However, it is very important; it’s not a subject to ignore.

According to the American Psychological Association, studies show that even at an early age, children have more favorable opinions of people they see as the same as them. A cited study showed that 6-year-olds assigned to a green group or orange group recall positive things about those in their group and negative things about those in the other group.

Talking about differences teaches children to see the strength and worth in diversity. Allow your kids to ask questions, present scenarios, and continue the dialogue about diversity and racial inclusion. We can’t expect this to be a ‘one-time talk’. The topic of inclusion can start with gender or LGBTQ+ populations, maybe based on casting in a television show or book you are reading together. You can extend the conversation to racial inclusion in similar platforms. You can make deliberate efforts to expose your children to shows and books with people who look different from your family.

It is important to encourage your child to ask questions and be honest about what you don’t know. Work to find answers that connect your conversations to ways they can contribute to positive change and be a change agent themselves.

The Child Mind Institute recommends using plain, simple language when discussing racial violence. Even young kids may assume that people are treated badly because they acted badly. Here, it is important to recognize the history of unfair treatment doesn’t reflect a whole race’s or individual’s behavior. There is as much diversity within racial groups as across racial groups.

This is a good learning lesson for both African and American history – learning how the disparity started and has evolved over the centuries. It is important to highlight those throughout history who have demonstrated strength and resilience and fought for freedom and equality.

The recent images in the media are scary but you know your child’s comfort level. Younger children probably shouldn’t see those photos or videos. Your older kids may be mature enough to see them, but you should discuss the content with them. Kids will have questions… should they worry about violence against themselves or their friends, how can they help or what happens next with this movement? Keep the dialogue open.

Learning and listening with compassion and empathy is the best way to approach tough conversations and help further their understanding.

Brittany Farrar is the regional director of Middle Tennessee programs and Tennessee Specialized Crisis Services for Youth Villages. Crisis services are still available 24/7 if your child needs support. Youth Villages is available and prepared to assist your family during the time. Call 855-CRISIS-1 or text CONNECT to 741741.


Related article: For kids, too much reading is never a bad thing

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