Teaching Children About Racial Justice

Teaching Children About Racial Justice

Without some guidance, children may develop racial bias from exposure to negative stereotypes, media misrepresentation, and racial disparities. It takes just a bit of attention to help children become inclusive and fair.

Clinical psychologists suggest the following tips to help build a child’s sense of justice:

Take time to answer children’s questions.Don’t use generalities (such as “everyone is the same inside”), and if you’re not ready to answer a question, tell them “that’s a good question – let me think about it,” and come back to discuss it later.

If you hear a child make a negative or racist remark, ask in a nonjudgmental way, “What makes you say that?” You may find the opportunity to dispel negative or inaccurate ideas and increase understanding and empathy.

Talk to children about what they see and hear – they need help understanding news stories or events.

Use children’s books that include diverse characters and social justice stories. You can later ask the child about how they might help a character that experiences negative types of bias, building understanding, and empathy.

Make clear that you believe it’s wrong to treat a person differently or unfairly because of their skin color – show them you believe racism is wrong. Make a rule that children cannot tease or hurt someone that is different.

Encourage different perspectives of other people, helping your child know that there are similarities and differences in feelings, behaviors, appearance, or choices. Younger children sometimes view people as either all good or all bad.

Along with acknowledging the reality of bias and racism, share messages about hope for things to change, how to find help when needed, and how important it is to speak up when they know something is wrong.

As we all navigate through the challenge of this pandemic, racial discord, and political divisiveness, it’s critical to remember that children are experiencing – and learning from us – an opportunity to communicate, understand, and empathize.

You can find a number of free resources on this topic at Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Feel free to share this information and link with friends and family to help educate and inform those they love.