Talking to Children about Race

Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children's understanding of race, racism, and in developing a healthy racial identity. Open and honest conversations about race help to foster empathy, understanding, and a sense of identity in children.

When should you start? 

Start early! Children notice race and internalize beliefs about race when they are very young. Even babies notice difference and may show preference for a person whose race matches their own. By age 10 children can become set in their beliefs, so it is important to begin discussions about race, racism, and bias early. Be intentional and consistent. This will help your child develop a nuanced understanding of race and identity and critically analyze messages from media and peers. Plus, these regular conversations will lay the groundwork for becoming anti-racist.

Tips for Conversations

Be proactive! Don’t wait for your child to bring up the topic and remember that it’s not a one-time talk. Talks will differ for families of different racial backgrounds, for mixed-race families, and for adoptive families. Parents need to tailor discussions to their family's needs, as well as to developmental stages. While you don’t need to be an expert, you do need to examine your own biases, your understanding of racism, and your feelings about racial inequity. Show your child your willingness to learn together. Seek out age-appropriate books and media. Be willing to explore your own racial identity, including experiences of privilege, discrimination, and resilience. These conversations can bring up strong feelings, so allow space for emotions related to injustices.

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