5 Conversations About Race Every Parent Should Be Having

Racism exists, whether we like it or not, making it important to have these conversations about race and race issues.

Meghan Rivard June 22, 2016

Racism exists, whether we like it or not. Even at a young age, children ask questions about why someone looks different than they do. They will notice some people have black hair or brown hair, blue or hazel eyes, white or brown skin. Children and even adults will ask you questions and it is important to have these conversations about race and race issues.

Talk to your toddler about race before starting school.
1. Talk to your toddler about race before starting school.

Your child’s world will drastically open up when they start going to preschool, so start having discussions before they start school. This is the age they will start recognizing differences in skin color, hair color, eye color, etc. They will start asking you questions about why people look different. Answer these questions openly and honestly. This will teach them from early on that it is okay to talk about race.

Talk to your extended family and friends about race.
2. Talk to your extended family and friends about race.

It is important to talk to your extended family and friends about appropriate adoption wording as well as appropriate race wording, including biracial, transracial, and multiracial. Even consider calling grandparents by your child’s native language titles.

Teach your child ethnic pride.
3. Teach your child ethnic pride.

Teach your child about their race and ethnicity so that they can be self-confident about “who they are.” Research your child’s ethnic background, emphasizing the past accomplishments and struggles their ancestors have endured. Be a knowledgeable source of information for your child.

Educate about discrimination.
4. Educate about discrimination.

As I mentioned, racism and discrimination are an unfortunate part of this world. It is important that you teach your child how to best respond if they are discriminated against or see it happening to someone else. Educate them about what makes up racism and discrimination. If your family is diverse, it is also important to talk to your children about the questions that they will be asked, such as “Why do you look different from your mom?"

Make a difference.
5. Make a difference.

Allow me to quote from a poignant article I recently encountered online:

“Gary’s father suffered a detached retina at the hands of a white Alabama police officer, and he grew up seeing people hand out Ku Klux Klan fliers. But his son isn’t exposed to any of that.

“Years ago, when I talked to him about the Civil Rights Movement and slavery, he asked, ‘Why would people treat other people like that?’” Gary says. “His question was, ‘What are you talking about? How is that possible?’”

Eventually, I hope my kids (or their kids) will be able to look back at the things happening today – racial gaps in wealth and education levels, largely segregated housing and schools, etc. – and ask the same questions.”

I have the same hope. I hope eventually we won’t have to have these discussions with our children. I hope that my daughter won’t be stereotyped (she is Asian and we are Caucasian.) But it probably will happen. I hope kids in her school won’t say anything about why we look different. But it probably will happen. I can’t prevent negative judgements or biased judgements from happening, but I can ensure that my daughter has the tools she needs to make a difference.

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Meghan Rivard

Meghan is an adoptive mother and a big advocate of adoption and foster care. She resides in Indiana with her husband, their one-year-old daughter who is the center of their lives, and their dog Max. She has a Bachelor's and Master’s Degree in Social Work. Meghan stays at home with her daughter but is so happy she found this outlet to share her personal adoption story and educate about adoption!

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