Developed by HRI Program Coordinator, Camila Dos Santos, M.Ed.
Children know when adults are not being completely truthful, and while they do not need to know everything, it’s important to be as honest as you can be when talking about important and sensitive topics, particularly racism and racial injustice.
When engaging in conversations about racism with young children, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I’ll need to learn more about that,” if they bring up a question or issue that you are unsure of or need more time to think about before responding.
Sometimes, it’s best to revisit a conversation later once you have had time to become comfortable and knowledgeable about the topic. Common Sense Media has a great resource on how to talk to kids about difficult subjects that while not specifically addressing racism, has many strategies that can help parents navigate sensitive discussions with children of all ages.
Being honest with children also means being genuine about our emotions or thoughts. When sharing, it is important to use words that children can understand and to refrain from scaring or overwhelming them. It’s okay to let your child know you’re concerned or stressed about something, but they probably don’t need to see you visibly upset over it.
If you’re unsure about what to share or how much to share, practice sharing with an adult first, such as your spouse or a family member, to help you make sure that the conversation is appropriate for your child and to help you choose the right words to express yourself.
Remember that when we share our emotions with our children, we teach them that it’s okay to express how we feel and we help them learn to empathize with and care about the feelings of others.