With the recent and tragic murder of George Floyd, civilians, worldwide, have been protesting for justice, and against police brutality and racism. Videos and images of burning buildings, people being attacked, tear gassing and looting are visible across the internet and on the news, and children are bound to be confused and will begin to ask parents questions as to what is happening. Many of us may be unsure of how to address this.
Children as young as three, are beginning to classify people based on their skin colour.
So, should we speak to our children frankly about police brutality, injustice and race or should we hold back and protect their innocent minds?
A number of parents assume that discussions with children about race are unnecessary and hold the opinion that if a child has enough exposure to people of different races and cultures, the environment will automatically become the message. However, children as young as three are classifying people based on their skin colour.
Dr Phyllis Katz research concludes that children do not exhibit the kind of colour-blindness many adults expect. Therefore, the period where most parents assume race discussions to hold no importance, is actually the most crucial time, as children are forming their very first conclusions about race.
There are however a number of parents who believe that now is the time to speak, and raise awareness about race within the world and within our children. And that if race is an open discussion earlier, race issues will be lessened later on in life.
How to talk to your child about race
Read articles together
Share articles online with your child and ask for their opinion. Lead with questions like "How would you feel if people disrespected or harmed you because of the colour of your skin?" Whilst reading, pause and give breaks for discussion and questions. You may have to coax your child into this as this will be a foreign subject for them.
Watch movies with and without racial diversity
There are many movies without a diverse cast - watch them with your children. Lead with sentences like: "Did you know that princesses can be any race?" Then begin to watch movies that promote diversity. Your child will begin to see the differences. Continue to monitor this and ensure your child is watching movies and T.V. shows that present a racially inclusive cast.
Diverse schooling & activities
When looking for schools, activities and social situations do not base your decisions solely on ratings and reports. Ensure your school, in particular, of choice is racially and economically diverse. This will give your child the opportunity to mix with children from all races, giving them complexity in their understanding of different cultures, values and people.
Whatever your family origin, it is important to talk to your child about racism and the world we are living in. Having conversations may seem difficult, but if we do not teach our children about race and diversity, they will not understand and respect the differences in society. It is up to us a parents and carers to create the next generation of people, who will change the momentum toward the tide of anti racism and racial justice.