How to talk with little kids about race: Start with similarities and differences
Here’s a few tips for getting the conversation started with children under five:
- Talk with your child about your family. Who are the people in your family? Where did they come from? What special things do you do together? What foods do you enjoy together? What holidays do you celebrate, and what are some of your traditions around those holidays? What similarities do the people in your family share, and what are some differences that make each of you unique?
- Talk to your child about people in your community. Who are they? What role do they play in your lives? What do they look like? This can include people you see on TV, or even characters you read about in books. Talk with your child about the similarities and differences they notice between these people or characters and themselves.
- Listen to your child’s ideas about people. Encourage them to ask questions about things they are curious about or don’t understand. You may not have all the answers—none of us do!—but this is a great opportunity for you to model curiosity and empathy for others, and you can involve your child in researching the answers to their questions. This is also an important opportunity to correct any stereotypes your child may have developed about individuals or groups of people by replacing misconceptions with accurate information. You may even find yourself challenging some of your own assumptions, which is great!
- Seek out cultures and experiences other than your own. Friendships, community celebrations, books movies, and music are all great ways to help your child learn about the different ways people live and experience the world. When children learn from an early age that diversity is the norm, and that everyone has different ways of doing things, they grow up with a healthy appreciation of diversity and are better able to celebrate both similarities and differences.
Got kids older than five? Extend the differences and similarities conversation beyond the obvious.
- Darker skin provides more protection from the sun than lighter skin.
- The epicanthic fold, which determines the eye shape of people with Asian origins, provides protection against the glare of snow or from flying dust.
- Blue eyes and “white” skin are common among people who originated in Northern Europe where the sun is less strong.
- your ancestry
- your traditions
- the foods you eat
- the religion you practice
- your values
- and more