5-6 YEARS OLD

It’s not too early to talk to your kin­der­garten-age kid about racism. DR RICHARD C. WOOLF­SON shows you how to get started.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

It’s not too early to talk to your kin­der­garten-age kid about racism. Here’s how you can get started.

We all have our own prej­u­dices, of­ten with re­al­is­ing it. If you hold neg­a­tive views about racial groups, don’t be sur­prised when your child starts to reect these at­ti­tudes in her be­hav­iour, as well.

Al­though you live in a multi-racial so­ci­ety with peo­ple of many eth­nic­i­ties, un­for­tu­nately, there are still racists around.

And chances are, your child will ob­serve (or per­haps be a vic­tim of) such racism – per­haps at kin­der­garten, some of the young­sters have al­ready taunted one of their peers about his darker skin, or about his small eyes and flat nose, or maybe men­tioned his race.

That’s why now is a good time to start talk­ing to your five-year-old about in­tol­er­ance be­cause her ideas about race are start­ing to form.

Don’t feel awk­ward talk­ing about racism. The eas­i­est way is to start off the dis­cus­sion is by us­ing ev­ery­day in­stances.

For ex­am­ple, when your child chooses apples at the su­per­mar­ket, you can say: “You see that some of them are red, and some are green. They’re all dif­fer­ent on the out­side but they’re re­ally all the same on the inside. Peo­ple are like that, too. We’re all the same on the inside, even if we look dif­fer­ent.”

Then take the con­ver­sa­tion on from there to ex­plore her views about dif­fer­ent racial groups.

Some par­ents pre­fer to use a child-cen­tred book to start a con­ver­sa­tion about racism, and there are plenty avail­able specifi­cally for this pur­pose.

You’ll find a huge range on­line, and if you are not sure which book would be most suitable for your child, ask her teacher for ad­vice or go to the li­brary or book­shop.

Let’s talk

Be ready to ac­cept your kid’s ques­tions about race, with­out crit­i­cism. After all, al­though she might agree with you that we are all the same and that we should all be treated equally, she might also in­sist that some peo­ple are quite dif­fer­ent from others and there­fore should be treated dif­fer­ently.

For ex­am­ple, there may be a child of a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic­ity in her kin­der­garten who be­haves rudely to­wards ev­ery­one. Ex­plain that the child’s be­hav­iour has noth­ing to do with his race, that it is about his in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­ity, and that there are many other chil­dren of his eth­nic­ity who are pleas­ant and fun to be with.

Chil­dren of kin­der­garten age are prone to as­sum­ing that a gen­eral prin­ci­ple can be drawn from a sin­gle incident, so you may have to work hard to dis­suade your preschooler from form­ing gen­eral stereo­types of racial groups based on iso­lated neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. How­ever, never make her feel guilty for ask­ing those ques­tions, and al­ways ad­dress them di­rectly.

Watch your own be­hav­iour

Re­spond to ev­ery incident of racism that your kid be­comes aware, per­haps whether it is some­thing she sees on TV or wit­nesses in the street.

Use these episodes as spon­ta­neous teach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ask her what she feels like hav­ing seen that racist incident, and then ask her to imagine how the vic­tim feels.

De­vel­op­ing her em­pa­thy and en­cour­ag­ing her to look at the world from the vic­tim’s per­spec­tive, gives her a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the emo­tional im­pact of racism.

Set a good ex­am­ple your­self. Stand back and think long and hard about your own at­ti­tudes and com­ment about race.

We all have our own prej­u­dices, of­ten with re­al­is­ing this, and you may hold neg­a­tive views about par­tic­u­lar racial groups – if you do, don’t be sur­prised when your child starts to re­flect these at­ti­tudes in her be­hav­iour, as well.

Avoid mak­ing state­ments like “X are all the same, the way they .... ” or “you can never trust a ..... ” in front of your child, and gen­tly con­front your kid when she makes those sorts of com­ments.

And if your five-yearold one day points out that some­thing you have said or done ap­peared to be racist, dis­cuss this openly with her.

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