Ask The Experts: How To Have Age-Appropriate Conversations About Racism

african american woman with her arm around her sonAs violence continues to erupt across the nation – like the White nationalist rally which took place in Charlottesville, Virginia which left three dead and over 30 others injured – you may be asking yourself, ‘how do I talk to my children about the racially-fueled event or racism in general?’ Whether you’re raising preschool-aged children or teenagers, the discussion is more vital now than ever. We must both prepare and protect our kids, ensuring they grow up to be compassionate and loving individuals. It may feel overwhelming and at times impossible, combating TV screens and newsfeeds filled with images of chaos and terror.

If you’re anything like me – raised in a diverse family and stuck – or simply don’t know where to start, experts weigh in on how they would approach discussing racism with kids, age by age.

Preschoolers

Young children “are very vulnerable and can take what you say very literally,” suggests Dr. Elizabeth Henry, Founder of Dr. Liz Consulting. The youth expert explained, “You have to be very careful what you say and limit their exposure to the media. If they overhear something they don’t understand and ask you a question, don’t ignore them but answer them succinctly.”

When inquiring about events they may see on TV such as rioting and rallying, “there is no need for detail,” added Henry.

School aged children

When talking to elementary aged children, keep in mind that they “begin to have more logical, organized and flexible thinking,” Dr. Eboni Hollier, a pediatrician who is board certified in both Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics as well as General Pediatrics, tells BlackDoctor.org. “School age children begin to become more aware of and more sensitive to racial stereotypes. This awareness may come from their exposure to the media or simply the experiences they have in their environment.”