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How to Talk to Kids About Race (page 2)

How to Talk to Kids About Race

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Updated on Jun 25, 2013

Books can be a great way to launch into discussions about how the characters might have felt. The story of Rosa Parks, for example, can be a great way to explore with your child what he could have done if he had been on the bus with Ms. Parks. Ask, "What could you do if you see someone else treating people badly because of the color of their skin?" Help your child find alternatives such as standing up to the bully, telling an adult about what is going on, or simply stepping in to be a friend to someone in need.

Most of all, help your child learn to identify racism as she gets older by pointing it out when you see it. Explain why you didn’t laugh at Uncle Fred’s joke or why you walked away from a conversation other people were having. Talk about stereotypes and explain how someone might think a person is nice or mean, fun to be with or not fun to be with, just because of the color of their skin. "Turn the tables," Killen says. With older kids, start by talking about other categories like school clubs and then ask, "What if someone said, 'Everyone in the journalism club is stupid'. Then move on to race and ethnicity."

Explicit racism has diminished dramatically in America. But implicit forms are alive and well. Sometimes teens might not even be aware that they're discriminating. "They might say they don't want to be friends with someone because it makes them uncomfortable, but they might not even realize it's the color of their skin," Killen says.

If you've got a younger child, relish their honesty. Your child doesn’t see the world in black or white, and neither should you. Try to pick up on your child's more specific and delicious ways of labeling the colors of people’s skin. Make sure that your construction paper stack and crayon box includes lots of varied flesh-colored tones, so that she can find the right fit for a self-portrait. Help her to appreciate the beauty of diversity by asking her to create a masterpiece with only one crayon and use that experience to illustrate the value of having a diverse community.

Finally, point out how wonderful and colorful our world is by reading some great picture books about race with your child. Here are a few to get you started:

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka

Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff

Talking about race doesn’t have to be a sticky thing! By approaching it with an honest, patient and matter-of-fact tone, your child will come to feel comfortable talking about it too.

For more resources, activities, crafts and worksheets to celebrate Black History Month with your child, click here.

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