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The Do’s and Dont’s of Teaching Your Child About Race

As an African-American woman in today’s society, “The Talk” about race is never a pleasant one; yet, it is necessary. By living in a marginalized community with problematic issues continuing to persist, I feel that this topic is becoming more and more prevalent in society and must be addressed. I am thankful that I am able to use my social media platform to share my views, thoughts and perspectives on ways to approach the topic of “race”.

As an African-American mother to my one-year-old son, Jayce, I often wonder how I will present the beauty of the world to him…one which is oftentimes clouded by the injustices encountered by individuals with certain skin color. It’s a hard and uncomfortable feeling when you see so many young children, teens, and adults face injustices such as police brutality, excessive incarcerations, and other racial disparities that exist in the African-American community. Many of the victims of racism look like my son; therefore, we must remain vigilant in having these conversations now, in preparation for issues that will surely arise later in life. It is incumbent upon ALL parents to not only talk to their children about racism, but to also have these conversations in their communities.

Therefore, I am hopeful in knowing that whether you’re Black, White, Brown, Hispanic, Asian, etc., we all can come together for the greater good of our children, our generation, and our future. We must condition their eyes into seeing more than just “color”. I believe that the individual differences that exist among different ethnic groups can better serve humanity if they are embraced by all races. Our children are like sponges ready to absorb new learning; what an attribute! This is how I validate my belief that racism is taught; it is not an innate behavior. As parents, we are their first teachers which require us to have discussions on topics that are sometimes uncomfortable, overwhelming but necessary for our children. This topic is what leads me to share a few of my “Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Your Child About Race.”

Do's

1. Teach your child to understand what diversity is, what it means and what it looks like.

Our world is viewed through a variety of lenses each day. This is by far the first and most important step to teaching your child about race. The conversation can be simple, but it must be truthful. It starts with a general understanding that our insides define who we are, and our outside defines how we look.

2. Read books to your child that talk about race and diversity. Be sure to make time for questions and conversations after completion.

If you are unsure exactly how to have the talk about race with your child, that’s okay. There is no exact way! However, the topic will surely arise and you must be prepared. Although my son is only one, I have already begun previewing books to help me organize my thoughts on how to approach the topic. I am delighted to know that there are so many books that exist that give a global perspective on diversity. A few of my favorites include We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Kates, The Colors of Us by Karen Katz and The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler.

3. Enlighten your child on racial and cultural terminology/dialogue they may encounter in everyday language.

Using the words black, white, mexican, and chinese are very popular “first words” used to describe people. However, these words can also be very offensive. It’s important that we teach our children to respect others’ differences and their nationalities using appropriate language. Instead of using these words to insight anger or instill resentment, they can be used to teach our children about the rich culture that defines each in its own unique way.

4. Expose yourself and your child to a variety of cross-cultural settings.

Sometimes the best way to learn is through personal experiences and exposure. Whether it is at school or participation in an extracurricular activity, encourage your child to be friends with or join groups that recognize and embrace cultural differences. This is one of the most natural ways for children to learn about cultures that are different from their own.

Dont's

1. Whatever you do, DON’T ignore the problem, or become blindsided when your child is confronted with this situation.

Ignoring the problem is the problem! Sometimes we shy away from talking about things that make us feel uncomfortable or force us into that space, outside of the box. Start early, be prepared, and make sure that you don’t intensify a situation that is best managed by using logic and sound reasoning.

2. DON’T highlight one culture or race as more important or dominant than another.

To do so would be like fueling the fires that are already raging among us. Teaching your child that they’re “better or worse” than someone else because of their skin color is sure to be a deterrent to future discussions on race.

3. DON’T wait until a racial encounter happens for you to begin having these conversations.

The sooner you start having conversations about diversity and racial inequality, the easier it will be for your child to feel “it’s okay” to talk about things that make them uncomfortable or afraid. To wait until something bad happens could potentially lead to a traumatic experience for you and your child.

4. DON’T be afraid to ask your child their thoughts on topics and role play scenarios that are common in today’s society.

For example, ask your child what he/she would do if pulled over by the police. Be prepared to share some safety tips to deter further escalation of the problem. Knowing how your child thinks, feels, and would respond if confronted with these situations, provides insights to the child’s perspective on this topic.

Altogether, change starts with us (the parents), as we are our children’s teachers, leaders, and role models. As their biggest advocate, we too have a responsibility to change the stereotypical mandates that have tainted our society for too long. Furthermore, I am very thankful for this opportunity to use my voice through various social media platforms to promote societal changes that provide racial equality for us all, despite the physical features that make us different.

Kourtney Marsh is a full-time elementary teacher who enjoys working with young children. Aside from being an educator, she is also a mom to my 1-year-old son Jayce, wife to her husband Tay, a social media influencer/content creator, and most recently, an entrepreneur.

In December, she launched her first e-commerce business, Free Your Curls LLC, where she sells her patent-pending Silk Sleep Sleeves for cribs and bassinets that prevent baby balding and promote hair growth, along with her all-natural Baby Body Butter.

When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and exercising. Moreover, she hopes her article and perspectives on “race” will have a positive impact on societal change.

IG: @freeyourcurls

Site: Free Your Curls Store

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