Do you want to talk to your child about race but aren’t sure where or how to begin? It can be intimidating to know where to start and difficult to do so when you’re in the process of learning yourself. But there’s never a time like the present to begin, and Denise Larosa, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at The Ellis School, is offering tips on how you can begin having these important discussions at home. A firm believer in leading with compassion and empathy, Denise is sharing how parents can participate in the self-reflection and dialogue needed to instill anti-racist beliefs in their children ages 3 to 10.
The Work Begins Within
To begin teaching your children about race, identity, and inclusion, you must first start with yourself. Seek out resources that will be helpful on your journey and don’t put the onus on your Black friends to educate you. Whether it’s a book, podcast, or webinar, designate time to learn independently and then take time to reflect on your own experiences, biases, and learned behaviors. A good starting point is asking yourself questions like: Who do I surround myself with? Who are my health care providers, babysitters, and friends? Are they all the same race? If so, ask yourself why that may be and what you can do to change it.
Let Your Child be the Guide
Just because you are invested in this work, doesn’t automatically mean that your child will care about it as well. Introduce topics and ideas in an age-appropriate way and follow your child’s lead. Be straightforward and answer only the questions being asked. Be a model and lean into your own mistakes in front of them. It will teach your kids that it’s okay to not have all of the answers, how to ask for help, and that they can always seek out additional information and support when needed.
Empower Them with Dialogue and Resources
For young children, beginning with the science of racial differences (i.e. learning about melanin) can be a helpful starting point. When having these discussions, be mindful to not speak to race in a heroes vs. villains conext, but in a real-world, age-appropriate way that speaks to the history and ongoing fight for racial change and equality. From there, ensure that the books your child has or checks out from the library are both windows and mirrors of the world around them. A mirror book reflects your own culture and a window book offers you a view into someone else’s lived experience. Books can be a great way to start this dialogue with your child and will oftentimes lead to more in-depth conversations and questioning.
Remember Children are Not Colorblind
While you may think your child is too young to learn and talk about race, children as young as two-years-old use race to reason about people’s behaviors. Kids notice and are curious about differences between people, so it’s critical for parents to develop positive perceptions and attitudes about diversity and inclusion by simply talking about it! Remember, talking about race is not shameful and silence reinforces racism.
Give yourself space for this process—it’s hard and messy. Embrace the discomfort that comes with learning about racism as it’s an important step toward becoming an effective ally and accomplice. Make sure you have an open mind, participate in the hard conversations, listen to leaders in the space, and allow yourself grace for the journey.
At the end of the day, this important work begins at home but it is reinforced and built upon in the classroom. Does your child’s school currently have a culturally-sustaining curriculum? The Ellis School is committed to offering multiple perspectives and ensuring that diverse stories, cultures, and ideas are taught, assimilated, and discussed.
Are you interested in learning more about Ellis’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work across grade levels?