Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

3 tips for talking about race with kids

A chalkboard drawing of two stick figures with speech bubbles to depict a conversation between two individuals

Whether you’re watching television, scrolling through your Twitter feed, or reading the newspaper, these days you’re likely to find plenty of talk about race and racism.

As I explained last week, it’s important to discuss these issues with children in order to prepare them to live in a multicultural society. And while there’s no easy way to address issues of race with your kids, here are a few strategies that can help you approach the conversation with confidence:

1. Stick to the facts

Provide kids with factual, age-appropriate information, and avoid statements that ignore rather than address the issue of racism — such as “we’re all the same on the inside” or “I don’t see colour.” Although you should speak openly and honestly about race with children, refrain from using fear-inducing language, as it may cause them to feel bias toward others.

2. Make use of children’s literature

Children’s books that tackle race and racism are great resources to employ because they humanize the abstract nature of these issues. They speak about race in a manner that is relatable for children, which makes it easier for parents and kids to have meaningful conversations about difference and discrimination.

For children who are visible minorities, literature that focuses on race can teach them how to cope with and understand the racial prejudices that they encounter in life. By offering characters that kids can identify with, these books show children that they’re not alone in their experiences of discrimination.

3. Look for teachable moments

When attempting to provide kids with clarity about sensitive subjects, talking often is crucial. One way to keep the conversation about race going is to grab hold of moments in everyday life and use them as springboards for learning. For example, you and your child can discuss why it’s such as monumental event for Viola Desmond to be featured on the Canadian $10 bill, or explore controversies like the recent U.S. travel ban. You don’t need to discuss every hot-button issue, but you should strive to normalize race talk in your home.

Have you talked about race with your child? Tell us how you handled this conversation, or why you have yet to approach the topic, by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.