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Silence is No Longer an Option

Starting a dialogue about racism can be difficult, especially when it comes to kids. Some parents feel uncomfortable or uncertain of how to begin a discussion about the frightening reality of systemic prejudice and may instead decide to avoid having the hard conversations. Other parents may choose to address these topics as early as possible out of necessity born from their own personal experiences with racism and a sense of obligation to prepare their children for a future of discrimination.

Enough is enough. Now is the time to stop making excuses, to hold the mirror up to ourselves, to reflect on our own implicit (or explicit) biases and to begin laying the groundwork for a more equitable, just and inclusive society where ALL people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The following is a list of age-appropriate tips obtained from UNICEF’s website regarding ways to initiate the conversation about racism.

Under 5 years

  • Celebrate diversity while acknowledging the things we all have in common

  • Welcome questions- topics are only taboo if you refuse to talk about them

  • Use words and concepts your kids will relate to such as the idea of “fairness” (racism is NOT fair)

6-11 years

  • Listen and ask questions about what your child has heard/knows

  • Discuss the media and what sources of information your child is using for information

  • Explore stereotypes and be receptive to your child’s desire to engage in discussion

12+ years

  • Show interest in your child’s views and what they’ve been hearing from others whether it’s their friends, social media, TV, etc.

  • Encourage activism and engagement

  • Introduce different perspectives to expand their understanding and continue the dialogue

If you want any additional resources, these sites have plenty of information for you:

https://www.unicef.org/parenting/talking-to-your-kids-about-racism

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/in-the-news/talking-about-race/

https://kappanonline.org/conversations-children-race-childhood-racism-hagerman/

https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-honestly-with-children-about-racism

https://www.npr.org/2019/04/24/716700866/talking-race-with-young-children

Kristen R. Motley, MMS, PA-C

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