Children can often be seen as the greatest representation of innocence, but when a young child is judging other kids based on their skin color? It's an uncomfortable situation that all parents must face. Parents know that racism is rooted in lifelong behaviors and beliefs, but what is the best course of action when a young child learns that difference of skin color leads to judgment? This article will explore how to handle this difficult situation and what conversations must take place for a better understanding of inclusivity and acceptance.
The State of Racial Tension
It is undeniable that racism exists and we have only recently begun to address the societal implications. Schools, cities, and states are working towards creating a more equitable and diverse environment while taking into account generational issues and historic traumas. But even with these efforts, incidents of racism are still present, as witnessed by the recent protests and groundswell movements throughout the country. With this in mind, it's understandable how a young child would pick up on the pervasive negativity surrounding skin color.
At an early age, children are sponges for information, gathering information from everywhere- the media, their peers, their families. Therefore, if a young child says something derogatory or discriminatory about another's skin color, it's likely they have heard it somewhere else. As a parent, it's upsetting to realize that your child has picked up on something so negative and hurtful, but it needs to be addressed. Rather than giving lectures or scoldings, a conversation should take place about the state of acceptance and compassion for all people regardless of what they look like.
Reconnecting with Your Values
As parents, we want our children to grow up in a world that is equitable and just. The best thing to do when facing this difficult situation is to stand firmly behind your values. Remind yourself of why you teach your children to treat everyone kindly- regardless of race, gender, religion, economic status, etc. Explain to your child in simple terms why there is no excuse for prejudice and how they can help create a kinder, gentler society in which everyone is accepted regardless of race.
Teaching by Example
Most important of all is leading by example. parents can plant seeds of inclusivity through exposure to diverse lifestyles and cultures. Take time to show them books, tv shows, movies, artwork, music and stories that feature people of different backgrounds coming together for similar goals. Talk about the good qualities in each person rather than pointing out differences in appearance or behavior. Showing that everyone can contribute to our society in some way reveals its beauty and helps cultivate a sense of appreciation for our diverse world.
Helping Kids Better Understand Others
In order to further help children avoid stereotypes or assumptions about people from different backgrounds/cultures, ask questions that force them think beyond surface level similarities such as skin color. What type of activities do they like? What do they do when they are bored? What are some things they wish they could learn or do? This encourages kids to explore beyond just skin color and connects them with people across races.
When children judge others based on their skin color, it is a difficult situation for any parent to face. While the conversation about inclusion may not be easy or comfortable, it is necessary to help promote acceptance of all people regardless race or culture. Reminding ourselves of our values and showing by example helps create a home that is both safe and welcoming to all. Finally encouraging kids to think beyond skin color allows them make meaningful connections with people despite whatever physical appearances may exist.