Expert explains how to talk to your kids about racism

File photo
File photo (WJXT 2020)

Racism and discrimination continue making headlines.

Whether it’s a peaceful protest or violence – kids may have questions about what they see and hear.

Emily Mudd, PhD, a child psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, recommends asking children what they’ve seen and letting them lead the conversation.

“They could be scared, angry, frustrated, mad, it’s really important that parents leave space for their children to have these feelings,” she said. “So, we want to try and open that dialog with them, we want to be able to validate how they’re feeling and provide comfort for them. What we don’t want is children navigating this on their own.”

Dr. Mudd said children are very intuitive and will ask questions, and she advises parents to try answering to the best of their knowledge.

If you don’t know the answer, be honest about it, and look it up so you can learn together.

She adds that conversations about racial differences will vary depending on the age of your child.

Parents will want to keep things simple for smaller children, but can go into greater detail with adolescents and teenagers.

According to Dr. Mudd, most children understand fairness from a young age, so explaining that people aren’t being treated fairly because of the color of their skin, may be a good place to start.

She adds that it’s important to teach children to be kind and respectful to all people and empower them to stand up for equality.

“Often that message that families can send, a well-intentioned message, is that people are all equal and we treat everyone with equality and that is a really good message to send your children but unfortunately, if that is a message that white children are receiving, and black children are receiving a message that people may not like them because of the color of their skin, that’s not okay. So, we need to teach white children to not only be allies, but to be activists,” said Dr. Mudd.

Dr. Mudd said talking about race is a good first step, but it’s not enough.

She recommends families have books at home and watch movies that show different races positively.

Including children in diverse activities and groups while they’re young helps decrease prejudice too.