Discussing Race with Children


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On this day to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all he did to advance equality for all, I confess, I have no idea how to talk to my kids about race. We’ve been reading “Same, Same but Different” for as long as I can remember and my older daughter can often be heard explaining unfamiliar situations by saying, “it’s because we’re all a little different.” But I have never had a flat out conversation about race with her or even mentioned any specifics beyond saying that just like we have different hair colors, we also have different skin colors. I’ve spoken to her about wheelchairs, missing limbs, eye glasses, moles (mine), hair color, sign language and other things she’s asked about. I have no problem telling her that sometimes women marry women and sometimes men marry men, people can love whoever they love, regardless of the color of their skin or their gender. We’re all a little different and that’s what makes us special. I usually take a follow the child approach to things like this and when I’m asked I don’t lie (except for Santa) and am as honest and open as I feel she can handle at that age. My girls know the correct names for all of the private parts. I feel strongly that this is important. They know that mommies and daddies make babies and that some babies are adopted. They know how babies are born.

But they’ve never asked specifically about race. I fear that if I tell them that some people judge others based on the color of their skin, they might start doing so. If I start talking about race and then they take that to the playground, will they offend their friends of different races by bringing it up? How do you explain injustices to your children when you want to shelter them from all things bad and evil? If I don’t mention it at all, then it’s not a thing right? But I know that not talking about things doesn’t make them go away and it doesn’t mean they never happen(ed). So my questions remain: How much do I say and at what age? And what exactly do I say? Why do I feel this subject is so taboo, uncomfortable or difficult to talk about? What I am afraid of?

We’ve got some amazing bloggers here who have written some really inspiring posts regarding parenting and race. Since I don’t have any of the answers myself, I’m dedicating this week to them and linking you out to those posts.

If you’ve tackled the subject of race with your children, however causally or pointedly, please consider sharing what felt right for you and your family.

4 thoughts on “Discussing Race with Children

  1. Jenn — this is awesome. And certainly can be a tough topic for me sometimes for fear of saying or writing the “wrong” thing. You did a great job and can so identify with your feelings and approach to it.


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