One way to ensure that everyone’s commitment to dismantling racism is, prioritizing raising anti-racist children. However, the question is how to engage your children in talks around race. The best way white parents can lead to impactful and meaningful conversations with their kids to dismantle racism.
In other words, being intentional about how you engage kids in conversations around equality and race is vital to their racial identity. Their inclusiveness of others, and their ability to engage in compassionate relationships with others.
Here, experts weigh in on ways white parents can work to raise children who are anti-racist.
Acknowledge that white privilege is real
It’s important for white parents to teach their children about the advantages they possess simply for being born a white person. It’s a critical step in raising anti-racist children.
“White privilege is not to say that a white person will not have struggles or adversity, but instead, it should be viewed as an inherent advantage that the person has without doing anything other than having white skin,” says Lucinda D. Norman Johnson, a teacher at the Penn-Griffin School For the Arts.
Don’t pretend color doesn’t exist.
Race matters. In fact, studies show children can begin to differentiate race by as early as 3 months old and can classify others by race between 6 and 8 years old.
“If a parent teaches their children not to see color, she is teaching her child not to know the identity of the other person. When you don’t see a person’s race, then what you are saying is you don’t need to know that person truly,” says Johnson.
Answer questions about race honestly and factually.
When children speak of a racial difference between them and another person in public. Parents’ reaction is usually to admonish or ignore their child. But there is a better way to handle that situation.
Answer questions about differences in skin tone and features calmly. For example, if your child makes a statement such as, “Mommy, that lady’s skin is brown, and yours is white,” agree with them and ask them a question such as, “What do you think about that?” or “What made you say that?”
And be open to their thoughts and questions. Most importantly, respond with factual information.
Start talking to kids about racism early on.
In fact, start the conversation about racism as early as 5 years old. This can make all the difference in how kids view the world and others. Don’t leave this up to society.
“Don’t shelter your children from the harsh reality of what racism is. Be deliberate in teaching them about racism and bias,” says Johnson.
Be a good role model for your kids
Children are always watching their primary caregiver for guidance and they understand more than you might think. Be intentional about the modeling you give them and mindful of the language you use.
“They look to you for not only what you can provide for them and teach them, but they pay attention to how you do or do not respond to discussions specific to racism,” says Danielle R. Busby.
Don’t hide your emotions from your kids
It’s critical to show kids that it is OK to be aware of your emotions and to talk about them. Above all, it’s also OK if you feel like you don’t have all the answers, but that doesn’t mean conversations shouldn’t take place.
“We want to teach children the importance of having difficult conversations. Talking with your child about your feelings about the nationwide protests could even be a place to start,” says Dr. Busby.
Most importantly, do the research and educate yourself on how to raise anti-racist children.
As author Brian Tracy once said, “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”