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.
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 reect 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.
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.