Talking With Toddlers About Race
Starting a lifetime of conversations about diversity and racial identity
Revisit discussions after you get informed. Remember, you can always go back to a conversation. If your older child asks you a question about race and you just aren’t sure of the answer, you can always go back to it. You can also do research and learn together.
Notice racial stereotypes and what racial messages are presented in the shows and movies your child watches. If you don’t like them, don’t show them at home; if your child, once older, questions, be frank with your answer: “I don’t like the way they made ….” Preschoolers and school-age children are able to have discussions about these messages.
Teach your toddler how to express his feelings and empathize with others. As your child gets older, these skills are the basis for respecting the rights and feelings of other people no matter their differences.
Use these tips for raising your child with a more diverse cultural experience:
Keep a multicultural home library. Have books with main characters of all races. Books can be a good starting point for later discussions about cultural differences and historical happenings: slavery, apartheid, the abolitionist movement, etc. Teach children about prominent people of all colors, both in the present and past.
Attend cultural events as a family that expose your child to different ethnicities in your area and in the greater community at large. Celebrate your own cultural identity, too.
Choose racially diverse playgroups, daycares, and nursery schools. Express your interest in raising your child with kids from different cultures with the organizers, and they should share with you who attends.
Play music from a broad range of cultures in your home. Browse iTunes or your local library.
Celebrate and observe significant events. Many communities have events on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Lunar New Year, or Cinco de Mayo. Keep up to date with happenings in your community and join in! (The historical significance of Barack Obama’s presidency provides a great opportunity for talks—see if your child’s school or your community’s library has any related curriculum.)
Check out these books about race for toddlers through gradeschoolers:
- We’re Different, We’re the Same (Sesame Street)
- The Skin You Live In
- Skin Again
- Black, White, Just Right!
- The Colors of Us
- A GREAT book for older kids about racial identity development and racism: “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations about Race
For additional help on starting discussions about race visit Multiracialsky.com.
This information is intended to be a conversation starting point and not to replace consultation with a mental health professional. Knowing your child the way you do, adjust or edit this script and these recommendations to meet his or her needs and comprehension. If you have concerns about your toddler, contact your pediatrician and request a referral for a mental health professional who specializes in work with young children. Click here to find help for working with your child through this and other touchy topics.
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