In light of recent events and constant conversation amongst family, the question when is it alright to bring up the topic about race and racism to young children. Understandably, it can be a sensitive topic. More or less, parents often think that having these types of conversations would have to wait until their children become older because they’d have a better understanding of what’s happening. Whenever I look after my nieces and nephew, they’ve constantly asked questions about what has been happening on the news. I try my best to tell them in my own way for them to understand and it made me realize that these young children do pay attention and can comprehend what they see or is shown to them. This led me to do more research on how I can have more conversations like this with them.
With the heavy social media presence covering the Black Lives Matter movement and learning more about the subject, I came across a post that was posted by theconsciouskid on Instagram. It’s a nonprofit organization who teaches “parenting and education through a critical race lens.” It resonated with me because the quote they shared easily explained what I struggled to find the words with: “Adults often think they should avoid talking with young children about race or racism because doing so would cause them to notice race or make them racist. In fact, when adults are silent about race or use “colorblind” rhetoric, they actually reinforce racial prejudice in children.” (Dr. Erin Winkler, 2017)
On their post on Instagram, they explain how kids can understand race at different ages:
- 0-1 year: At birth, babies look equally at faces of all races. At 3 months, babies look more at faces that match the race of their caregivers.
- 2 years: Children as young as 2 use race to reason about people’s behaviors
- 2.5 years: By 30 months, most children use race to choose playmates
- 4-5 years: Expressions of racial prejudice often peak at ages 4 and 5
- 5 years: Black and Latinx children in research settings show no preference toward their own groups, as compared to white children at this age, who are more likely to be strongly biased in favor of whiteness.
- 5 years: By Kindergarten, children show many of the same racial attitudes held by adults in our culture. They have already learned to associate some groups with higher status than others.
- 5-7 years: Explicit conversations with 5-7 year olds about interracial friendship can dramatically improve their racial attitudes in as little as a single week.
I do believe this is an important topic to share with your children because as a part of JMG Sportswise, we work to make sure that our environment is a safe place for the children that we work with. By educating ourselves, we are able to help our students feel more comfortable and confident with not only their peers, but also themselves.
~ Coach Lauren