Overcoming racial bias: acknowledge it and talk with children

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Children are always watching and listening, but since protests for racial justice have spread across the globe, they’re witnessing, absorbing and internalizing possibly more than anyone knows.

A recent statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics says pediatricians are “deeply concerned about the effects of racism on children. Even vicarious racism — secondhand racism witnessed through social media, conversations with friends or family, or media images — harms children’s health.”

So, how can you begin talking with children about racial bias and injustice issues?

Here are a few suggestions to get the conversation started:

Silence is its own message. Don’t avoid conversations.

Reflect on your own biases and uncomfortable feelings.

Color is real. Don’t ignore or pretend it’s not there.

Start talking about racism early in your child’s life.

Read books together about racial equality and anti-racism.

Listen to their questions and be honest with your answers.

Realize this isn’t one conversation, but rather a series of many.

Be a good example.

“For children and adolescents, of all ages, the most powerful communication strategy is role modeling,” says Dr. Paul Croarkin, a Mayo Clinic pediatric psychiatrist. “Parents and caregivers often underestimate how important their own behaviors and communications with others are versus direct communication with a child.”


©2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

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