If you have been following our blog, you know about Worldwide Speech’s new commitment to provide resources for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ rights each month. This month our blogs will be focused on Early Intervention. So during this month’s newsletter, we want to talk about how important it is to talk to your children as early as possible about individual differences (e.g. race, sexuality, disabilities, etc.) and the resulting discrimination because of those differences. This is crucial because our children are the future generation of change-makers!
You may be thinking things like, “Oh, but I don’t want to draw attention to discrimination that young” or “That’s too complex of a topic to teach a young child,” but whether you discuss discrimination with your child or not, they have an innate awareness of fairness and consistently demand right over wrong. Research has shown that even if parents aren’t talking about race or other differences, children still notice differences and prejudice. So if we choose not to teach or talk about it, kid’s opinions about race and differences will be unchecked and further rooted in their minds.
Racial identity and attitudes start developing as early as 2 or 3 years old. At his age, they also begin to notice the difference between boys and girls, obvious physical disabilities and become curious about skin color and hair color/texture.
By 3 or 4, white children in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe have been shown to develop a preference for other white children. As young as 3 years old, if children are exposed to prejudice/racism they tend to embrace and accept it even though they might not fully understand.
When children start kindergarten, they begin to identify with an ethnic group to which they belong and are capable of exploring the differences between racial and ethnic groups.
Thankfully, bias can be unlearned! Being exposed to diversity in a positive way is the key. Kids’ passion for fairness is a good opening to discuss bias and discrimination. It is also important to drop the “colorblind” idea to racial differences and/or shush them when they see someone who is disabled. We want to encourage children to notice differences and at the same time honor people’s identities without judging or discriminating based on differences. Again, noticing differences is natural, but when adults assign judgments or value to differences, bias may develop in young children.
- Start Early! As mentioned above, racial identity and attitudes start developing as early as 2-3 years old.
- Don’t expect to have “the talk” about discrimination. It is an ongoing and open discussion rather than simply one conversation
- Keep talking even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. It will get easier in time.
- Use age-appropriate language children can understand.
- Don’t give too much information at once. Remember this is an ongoing conversation, so don’t feel pressured to get it all out at once.
- Respond to children’s questions about differences and bias as they come up naturally. Make sure they know their questions are welcome otherwise they might begin to think discussing differences is taboo.
- Help them understand the value of diversity. For example, explain that a diverse set of experiences and viewpoints boosts creativity and helps kids and adults better understand the world around them. On the other hand, discrimination hurts everyone (not just the targets of discrimination). When people are discriminated against, we can miss an opportunity to learn from them.
- Take opportunities to raise discussions based on what you see around you – in real life, books, TV shows, and video games. For example, “There aren’t many female characters in this video game… what do you think of that?” or “Do you think that show accurately portrays LGBTQ+ characters, or does it rely on stereotypes?”
- Help kids learn how to deal with being the potential target of discrimination. Have a plan by developing healthy comebacks or responses to hurtful discriminatory statements. For example: “What an unkind thing to say,” or, “Excuse me? Could you repeat that?” or, “I disagree with you and this is why…”
- If you hear children say something discriminatory, don’t hush them. Use the opportunity as a conversation starter to address their fears and correct their misperceptions.
- Challenge your own biases. Do you laugh at racially insensitive jokes? Do you cross the street to avoid people passing from a different ethnic group? Children learn from actions as much as your words.
- Broaden their horizons! Think about the diversity of your own friendships and parenting networks and the places you spend time in. If kids are exposed to diversity, they’ll have more opportunities to learn about others and discover what they have in common.
In our blog, Resources for Black Lives Matter, we provided articles and infographics that help explain why it is never too young to talk about race and how to do so. We’ve included it below for your convenience!
This resource, from The Children’s Community School, a learning community that honors and empowers children to engage their whole selves in education, talks about how children are never too young to learn about race. Check out this great infographic that explains how young children learn about race.
The above article also provides great resources from around the internet regarding tips, approaches, information, and perspectives. See below!
- Tips and Approaches
- 7 Things to Do When Your Kid Points Out Someone’s Differences, by Rachel Garlinghouse.
- Talking With Children About Racism, Police Brutality and Protests, by Laura Markham.
- 6 Things White Parents Can Do to Raise Racially Conscious Children, by Bree Ervin.
- How to Talk to Little Girls, by Lisa Bloom.
- Mama, Ella Has A Penis! How To Talk To Your Children About Gender Identity, by Marlo Mack.
- Information and Perspectives
- My son has been suspended five times. He’s 3. by Tunette Powell.
- Speaking “Mexican” and the use of “Mock Spanish” in Children’s Books, or, Do Not Read Skippyjon Jones, by D. Ines Casillas.
- When My 8-Year-Old Gay Son Taught His Class About Harvey Milk, by “Amelia.”
- It’s Not Just About Delaying Gratification, by Geek Feminism. (Also see To Predict Success in Children, Look Beyond Willpower, by Simon Makin.)
- It’s Okay to Be Neither, by Melissa Bollow Tempel.
- My Son Wears Dresses; Get Over It, by Matt Duron.
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