After the protest yesterday on Instagram i recieved some DMs from white parents asking how to talk to small children about race- here's some tips.
1st you need to get out of your own head. Parents and caretakers often overthink kid discussions and make it bigger then it needs to be. There no reason to freak the out when you talk to small children about sex, consent, their bodies, gender, race, etc. All you need to do is put it in simple terms. They understand far more then you realize and they soak up information like sponges. As we get older we actually get more stuck in our ways and fear growth. Children yearn for that growth. The reason why you need to Teach this now is because by 5 they are somewhere around 90% of the person they will be for the rest of their life. And yes people grow and change as they get older as well but the critical core learning comes in those first 5 years.
I've been in childcare for 11 years now in nanny work, preschools, and daycares. This has slowly taught me how to cater my conversations no matter what its about, to the childs personal needs.
2nd, acknowledge that your child acknowledges differences and race and stop ignoring it. Saying "I dont see in color" is not only racist but an outright lie. Everyone sees color. And saying you dont see it means you dont see your own privilege or the oppression others face. Children need to understand privilege. Example I took my nanny kid to a Malala book fundraiser and I told her before we went that we were going to buy books there to raise money for Malala so that this very brave girl could help other girls go to school and get an education. I told her that not every child gets to go to school and its important that we help them.
So back to race, when they say "that person is brown" say "yes they are and they are beautiful just the way they are the same way you are beautiful just the way you are. We are all different and that is perfectly okay" thats the first seed. Plant it. Put it in their heads that its okay that they notice the differences.
Then comes the second seed. "We are all different and we should all be treated with love and kindness but sometimes people with skin that looks like theirs are not treated as nice by other people" usually they ask why. Sometimes they sit with that information and ask why later. When they ask why is where the deeper conversation is had. For small kids I always say "well a loooooong time ago some men that were not so nice decided that people with darker skin and people with light skin would be treated differently. They decided that they would hurt the dark skin people and be mean to them just because of they way they looker but that is not how we are supposed to treat anyone. It is far more important to learn about who someone's is and how good and kind they are before we decide anything else about them. The color of someone's skin doesn't mean they are bad or good. How they act, treat you, and treat others shows if they are good. And most people are good." After that I usually ask them what they think about that. I've been hit with a lot of diff answers. We talk through all of them at their pace.
3rd, use books, movies and music to teach kids about cultural differences and race. There's so many amazing books that help them understand racism. And I will compile a list of some soonish. They should regularly be read diverse books because regularly they are in the world with diverse people and regularly they are in the world with people who are not tolerant of that diversity.
Fourth, a lot of times people think that if they just teach kids to love then they will just love everyone. Thats not how the world works and if that was the case then all those white kids with black nannies caring for them for centuries that they LOVED would have been able to fix this. Its about more then love its about teaching. YOU are not the only influence in your child's life. This even goes for kids not in school that are at home with you all day. Media and other people heavily influence them. And they listen to adults speaking even when you think that they aren't.- Example: my nanny kid says sometimes that girls can only wear dresses and boys can only wear pants. This is coming from a child that doesn't watch TV and her mom wears pants everyday. So I have to say "actually humans can wear anything. Then I show her photos on my phone of boys in dresses and tutus and girls in pants and suits. This is a way to lead into gender discussions which can then break into trans awareness for them. My point is, you have to correct them and make sure its an on going conversation just like race should be. Her and I go to Barnes and Nobles often and read books about people from other cultures and we read about race. She asks me questions and I answer it. We read books about girls who are strong and fierce and girls who are shy and timid. We walk around the city and I point to buildings and ask her who she thinks built it. And she says a man built it because all she sees are male construction works. So we go read books about girls that like to build and draw and design and I tell her she can do jobs like that if she wants to one day and others girls can as well. Its so easy actually to have these conversations because its just about talking to them. We talk all day. She asks me why her best friends hair is so different and I tell her its because she's black. And that there at many different types of curls and textures that black people have and that is one of them. Then I say "but make sure you ask her first if you want to touch her pretty curls just like she should ask you before she touches your pretty hair. Your body your choice. Her body her choice. BAM another discussion in the works on bodily consent and respect for others personal space. This is what has worked for me and I hope to expand this even more if/when I have babies. I hope this helps some of you parents and caregivers that are struggling to find the right words.