Teaching Children About Race

Nancy Sanders

The world is filled with diversity. Different cultures, races and languages are part of every child’s daily life due to the accessibility of television and the Internet. Four- to 7-year-olds are naturally curious about these differences. They want to know why a person has a different skin color, clothing or hairstyle. Even slang from other cultures is questioned.

View these times as opportunities to build an appreciation for each distinct individual and for humankind as a whole. Explore the variety God created with its full array of shapes, colors and textures. Teach your child to value unique qualities in others.

Open new doors by reading nonfiction books about other races and cultures. Explore websites that feature kid-friendly ethnic recipes and crafts. Discuss how events that impacted certain groups of people helped shape today’s world.

Always remember that children model adult behavior. What parents say and how they act concerning others will influence impressionable minds. Racist jokes, generalized statements or hateful expressions plant unwanted seeds — in the victim and in the offender. Instead, plant healthy seeds in the tender soil of your child’s heart, building respect toward others.

Helping Children Overcome Racist Bullying

Racism is alive and well even in this day and age. Your child may not immediately open up if she is being bullied. However, by simply observing your child, you may be able to identify the warning signs of racial harassment:

  • appears sad or lonely
  • feigns illness so she can skip school
  • seems nervous about leaving home
  • makes negative comments about her race or another race

If you recognize any of these signs in your child, set aside time to ask her open-ended questions and then listen. Allow her to express freely what she is experiencing. If you discover that she is being teased, keep these pointers in mind as you teach her how to cope and thrive in the situation:

  • Honestly answer your child’s questions. Avoiding the issue will only make it more difficult for her.

  • Make sure your child knows it is safe to discuss this problem with you so she will not feel like she’s dealing with her hurt alone.

  • Hold her to increase her sense of security, and pray with her.

  • Reassure your child that she is loved and that she is beautiful no matter what others have said to her.

  • Tell her that you understand how she feels if you have been subject to racial taunting as well. Share your own experiences with her (if appropriate, considering your child’s age).

  • Read stories to her about others who have endured and overcome similar circumstances.

  • Instill a strong sense of ethnic heritage in your child to build her self-esteem. Visit the local library together and research your race and culture. When your child discovers the leaders, historical figures and influencers of her race, she will be proud of her heritage and identity.

  • Meet with your child’s teachers and discuss ways in which this issue can be addressed. Suggest that workshops be held at the school that teach students the harm of racist remarks and that raise the awareness of the significance of all races and cultures.

Be on the lookout for teachable moments so your child will be familiar with this issue before she is subject to racial taunting or bullying. Above all, make sure she knows her home is a safe haven where she will always be loved, embraced and accepted.

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