How to talk to your kids about race

Have the conversation. Even when you don't have all the answers.

MADISON, Wis.– As protests continue for a fifth day and night in Wisconsin and across the country, many parents are wondering how to talk about the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor with their kids.

But just as important in the long run, especially for non-black parents, is how to keep the conversation about race and racism going. Here are several ways parents can do that:

Start early & talk often. Children start internalizing racial bias between the ages of 2 and 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With preschoolers, you should start talking about racial differences using the concept of fairness, which kids can understand. For example, talk about the time their brother got something and they didn’t. Explain the concept of inequality and then relate it to the protests. Conversations like these should be ongoing. By the time kids turn 12, many are set in their beliefs.

Find out how much they already know and let children ask questions. When it comes to older kids, parents can talk more specifically about what they’ve have heard or seen. If you live in Madison, or a community that’s been the subject of riots, don’t be afraid to show your kids the destruction. They’ve probably already seen some images on TV and know more than you think they do. Also show them positive images of protests: both now and from history. Focus on how unfairly black and brown people have been treated for centuries, through today.

Model anti-racist behaviors. Actively support members of our black community. Kids look to their parents to make sense of the world. Many will follow what their parents do. “In order to move us to a more anti racist society, we’ve got to be willing to have these conversations,” said Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, Lurie Children’s Hospital researcher. Visit embracerace.org for links to web articles, books, and other resources to educate yourself and connect with the black community.

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