While it can be tempting to shield your child from the events of the world, the reality is that many kids will experience or witness injustice at some point in their lives. Watching how you respond—or choose not to respond—to injustice is the first step children take in formulating their own approach to race. That’s why open discussion is so important, even with the youngest children.
As protests, reactions, and other events in this country continue to unfold, more and more disturbing images have made their way onto our TV’s, social media, and newspaper. Often, these images depict violence against others. The resulting protest images and video recordings, too, depict outcry regarding the way people choose to treat others.
How can you talk to your school-aged children about injustice and racism?
Your approach can—and should—grow with your child:
Kindergarten to second grade:
Five-to-8-year-olds are at the prime age to consider what’s fair and what’s not fair. As a result, this can lead to a discussion about injustice. Ask your child what they’ve noticed in the media. How does this compare to their own experiences or in their interactions with friends. Discuss how biases based on color—or any other stereotype—aren’t fair.
Third to sixth grade:
Nine-to-12-year-olds are much more likely than their younger siblings and friends to have electronic devices of their own. They’re more likely to have witnessed disturbing racist events online. Begin an open, honest discussion about what those acts of violence mean for the victims and for people of color everywhere. Explore examples of racism your child may have witnessed in their own lives and discuss the benefits of diversity and inclusivity.
Seventh to 12th grade:
Teenagers have likely not only watched current events and protests unfolding online but also formed an opinion about the incidents. Find out what they know about racism—from social media, the news, friends, personal experience—by asking open-ended questions. Promote an active discussion about bias. Teens are not adults and are still liable to view things simply. They may even engage in stereotyping behavior themselves. Keep the conversation open, but be clear that you don’t condone biased behavior. Alternatively, if your teen expresses interest in engaging in activism, you’ll need to discuss what that means for him or her and encourage action where you can.
Watching and Listening
The country as a whole is taking a serious look at how racism is negatively affecting our society. Therefore, the actions you take now will have an enormous impact on how they’ll approach issues of injustice and race moving forward. Your children are watching and listening—what message are you sending?
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