Living Columns & Blogs

How to talk to your kids about diversity

Have you ever talked to your kids about race or racism? Do you think it is an important conversation to have with your kids? Do you think they are too young or that it is not an issue for you or them? According to Rachel Berman, graduate program director of the School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto and a researcher on a project called “Can We Talk About Race? Confronting Colour-Blindness in Early Childhood Settings,” “They’re never too young, and ongoing dialogue about race and racism is a really good idea.”

Starting a conversation with your children about race and racism can be difficult. However, not talking about it can make your children think that the topic is taboo and off limits. Kids who are targets of racism also need to have these conversations in order to manage their feelings, unravel what is happening to them and determine the most appropriate responses.

How do we start the conversation? Kids have different capacities to learn and understand the world around them. This often requires parents to take a different approach to the conversation depending on the age and maturity of their child. One way to have this conversation is for parents to ask questions regarding how they see race or racism in their everyday lives:

▪ What are you seeing on television and the movies?

▪ What have you experienced in your peer group? Do you have friends of different races and cultures?

▪ Who has power in our society? Who do you believe is valued?

▪ What are you seeing on social media?

Parents must be comfortable having a conversation on race and racism with their children. This may require parents to examine their own biases and how their understanding of the topic is influencing their kids.

The conversations need to begin at an early age, and continue as the children mature to ensure we are raising racial competent adults who will one day live in a very different world then we do. Consider attending the Straight Talk presentation at 7 p.m. April 18 for more information about diversity and talking to your kids. Participants in this workshop will leave with a toolbox of strategies to allow them to engage their kids in meaningful conversations about race, racism, diversity and inclusion.

Carlos Wiley is the director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center at Penn State.

If you go

What: Straight Talk session: “Inclusive Excellence” presented by Carlos Wiley

When: 7 p.m. April 18

Where: Mount Nittany Middle School, 656 Brandywine Drive, State College