5 Tips for Talking About Race With Kids


race, diversity

My brown boys as babies!

Sometimes talking about diversity and race can be uncomfortable. But as the world grows smaller--and people closer, there is no denying that it is important to raise tolerant children who understand that this Earth is a place filled with all different kinds of people.

My son is the only black boy in his class. There is another black girl and a few bi-racial children, but in a classroom of about 25, only five kids are of color. Since my older son began kindergarten last fall, I've found myself discussing race and diversity a lot more than I ever imagined. Once, he asked me if the dentist "liked black kids." I was stunned. For one, at the time I had never identified him as a "black kid"--he always referred to us as brown (which, technically we are) and I was cool with that. At least when we were "brown," I knew that his color reference was based on a real description of us as individuals, not a racial (and loaded) classification of an entire group.

I took a long pause after my son asked me the dentist question. A part of me was truly sad, not to mention shocked. Then, "Everyone likes black kids!" rolled off my tongue. Of course, that isn't always true. Still in the moment, I chose to make my child feel confident, and when it comes to talking race with children--all children--I think it's important to affirm the best in people.  On that note, my friends at momversation are discussing diversity in schools and neighborhoods right now. They've also offered 5 tips on talking to your kids about race that I'm happy to share:

  • Acknowledge differences that your child notices, but also emphasize the inner qualities that make us all part of one human race.
  • Don't judge your child's questions or make her feel ashamed.  Instead, answer questions directly and honestly and don't overexplain.  Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know," and answer only the questions that are asked.
  • Sometimes it's what you do, not what you say.  Don't use labeling terms around your child (the Asian man; the Black girl).  If others use labeling or even racist terms, let your child know that you disagree.
  • Expose your child to many different types of people and cultures.  Don't pretend everyone is the same, but make sure your kid knows that everyone should be treated equally.
  • Use books!  Multiracial Sky has a great list of books about race that you can read with your children.

Have you talked with your kids about race and diversity? Any other tips to share?


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RanaA... RanaAurora

Dude, do you follow me around and read what my friends and I are talking about? :)

What we've done with my son is just talked about how everyone's skin was different colors - even Mommy's and Daddy's skin is colored differently than each other and differently than him.

He picked up that we're "white" somewhere, but was calling African Americans "brown", so we just had a talk where I put my hand against a piece of paper and showed him I was NOT white, but we're called white or caucasian.  Then I let him know that people with brown skin are usually "black" or "African American."  Then we pulled out his globe and showed him that people all over the world are called different things, usually based on where they live (but not always) and people look different in lots of different neat ways.

I don't want him to see race as an ISSUE, but obviously I have to acknowledge it exists.

lovin... lovinallofthem

THANKS!! i HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT , im hispanic, my hubby is mixed/Creole and my oldest is more hispanic and my middle son is AA.  he points this out all the time.. he isnt ashamed or anything.. one time he even explained to his younger sister (hispanic) that she was lucky that she wasnt "burned" like toast when GOd made HER, like he was.. he did also say that he was yummy like toast wis jelly too.. whatevah! LOL!!  and you are right.. we do have to acknowledge our differences and watch what we allow SAID around our children as well, .. .. while i dont use "labels" and such, i notice my parents still do.. in two languages.. and i grew up around them using them,, but i grew up in such a more diverse TIME than they did.. i dont like when my kids hear those 'labels' from them..

HTher... HTheriault

It started in Pre-K for my daughter.  She came home and asked me why Rudy was black and she was white.  After my initial shock - I, too, never referred to us as white or anyone we knew as black.  I did the same color comparison as RanaAurora - but with crayons.  I made her go get her 64 colors box and we confirmed that Rudy was not anywhere near that black crayon and she wasn't anywhere near that white crayon.  We got out all the browns (including the peach, as it falls into the category) and talked about how we're all just different shades of brown. 

I pointed out how beautiful it was that everyone was so different.  From skin color to hair types (her's is curly, most of her friends had straight hair or different color curls).  She understands the differences made them all wonderfully beautiful.  Now (she's 7) if she hears someone say that she's "white", she very politely says she's just a shade of brown called "tan".

Cafe... Cafe Kierna

The moms of today make me feel so much better about the world of tomorrow!

RanaA... RanaAurora

Now if she hears someone say that she's "white", she very politely says she's just a shade of brown called "tan". HTheriault

That's the cutest thing! :)

Annab... Annabellmore

I feel that my family and I are pretty lucky cause we live in a town full of diversity. In fact the town logo is Rock Springs town of 56 nationalities! We have friends of all different nationalities.

I am white, my husband is hispanic or mexican ( still have a problems explaing that one to my 8 year old!!) He thinks they are the same!!! It is so hard when there are so many names for each one!!

The only time I have ever been upset about it, we were at walmart and an older, bigger, african american bumped our cart. My little 3 year old said " hey that chocolate man hit our cart!!" I was getting ready to explain it to my son when the gentleman started laughing and said " i have been called a lot of things, but never chocolate; but hey I guess that means I am sweet!!!

But I have since explained it to him. I think as long as you do not show shame, but stop have a laugh and explain to your child it wil all be well! Plus kids just come out with the darndest things!!!  He now 4 and loves that we have a chocolate president, which he know by name and carries magaizines around with pictures of him!!!

IMSum1 IMSum1

My 5 year old is mulatto and when she was first learning in art about what happens when you mix certain colors, she told everyone she was red and green because red and green make brown!

Freela Freela

My kids are biracial- dh is south asian, I'm caucasian.  Perhaps because they see different races within their family and because our area is so diverse, they have not had a lot of questions about race.  My son in particular is very scientific so we have talked about the fact that people orignally were confined to certain parts of the world and thus they were suited to that particular area.  Darker skin protected people who lived in warm areas, and pale skin allowed people who lived in cold climates with less sunlight to get enough vitamin D to have strong bones.  But now that we can travel all over the globe we are lucky enough that everyone can mix together and we can meet all kinds of different people.  So far that has been enough for them. 

My kids are cute at being very literal about race sometimes.  Once we asked ds to reflect on what colour he thought he was.  He thought for awhile and then suggested 'dark white.'  And once my dd was trying to recall the name of a new friend from kindergarten.  "She's a white girl!" she kept telling me.  There are only a couple of caucasian girls in her class so I asked her if it was Kylee she was thinking of and she gave me a withering look and said "Mom, don't be silly.  Kylee is pink."  Hmmm... perhaps the sister of Casper the Friendly Ghost is in her class? LOL!

mommy... mommyheymommy

We talk about race quite a bit since ours is a trans racial family. 

Peajewel Peajewel

Wow!  What an eye opening post.  I am amazed that children are still taught "color"!  I am sure that someone at school is saying "white" and "black" which is how they come home with it.  This country has so many different people in it, this day and age, I just thought it was different.  I guess I will be better prepared to explain things to my daughter once she starts school.

Now on an off note, Kierna I just have to say that your children are so dang cute!  How do you not just squeeze those cheeks all day long?  I also saw your picture in the other daily buzz you were making a guest appearance in, you have a beautiful family lady!

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