As we embark on Black History Month, our research has led us to another incredible article from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and we’re excited to share that with you. Keep reading for some excellent information from the AAP about racial bias and how we can confront it as care providers to positively impact the younger generations and create a more equitable society.
How Do Children Learn Racial Bias?
Children learn about racial differences and racial bias from an early age and learn from their first teachers—their caregivers—how to deal with and react to these differences. The process of learning racial bias is a lot like learning a new language (e.g., a child raised bilingual vs. a child who starts learning Spanish in junior high). Biology determines a critical early learning period as well as a later window where learning is much harder. But like language immersion, children exposed to society will gain fluency in racial bias even if their caregivers do nothing.
- As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
- By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
- By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving caregivers a decade to mold the learning process so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.
Strategies to Help Children Deal with Racial Bias
There are three strategies that caregivers can use to help their children deal with racial bias:
- Talk to your children and acknowledge that racial differences and biases exist.
- Confront your own bias and model how you want your children to respond to others who may be different than them.
- Encourage your children to challenge racial stereotypes and racial bias by being kind and compassionate when interacting with people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.
What Racism Felt Like To A 7-Year-Old:
“You can’t be Han Solo…you’re black.” It hit me out of nowhere. I was so confused. I mean, my skin was certainly darker than anyone else in the group, but since when was that going to stop the game about space aliens? I assumed they sensed my confusion and offered me the role as Lando instead, because “…he looked more like you.” It was the day that my mother explained racism to me.
How Parents And Care Providers Can Confront Their Own Racial Bias
Parents and caregivers must first confront their own biases so that their example is consistent with messages of racial and ethnic tolerance. Here are a few ideas to get you started!
- Be a role model. Identify and correct your own racially biased thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you want your children to believe what you preach, you have to exhibit those behaviors as well. Your everyday comments and actions will say more than anything else.
- Have a wide, culturally diverse social network. Encourage your children to have diverse circles of friends, as well. This will facilitate engagement in multicultural activities and experiences.
- Travel and expose your children to other communities. This can help them understand that there is diversity in the world that might not be represented in the community that you live in.
- Do your own research. Invest time in learning more about how systemic racism infuses so many areas of society, and how to become an anti-racist ally.
- Get involved in your child’s school, your place of worship, and politics. Parents who are involved in this way are better able to advocate for fair treatment of racially marginalized groups and raise awareness of race issues in other groups.
Tips for Talking About Racial Differences & Racism
Talking about race is not racist. It’s okay — in fact, it is vitally important. From a young age, children may have questions about racial differences, and care providers and parents must be prepared to answer them. As with anything, it’s important to keep your child’s developmental readiness in mind as you determine the most age-appropriate way to engage in this conversation. Pro tip: begin the conversation with a few fantastic children’s books!
- For preschoolers: At this age, your child may begin to notice and point out differences in the people around you (i.e., at the grocery store, at the park, etc.). If your child asks about someone’s skin tone, you might say, “Isn’t it wonderful that we are all so different!” You can even hold your arm against theirs to show the differences in skin tones in your family.
- For grade-schoolers: This is the age that is important to have open talks with your child about race, diversity, and racism. Discussing these topics will help your child see you as a trusted source of information on the topic, and he or she can come to you with any questions. Point out stereotypes and racial bias in media and books such as villains or “bad guys” in movies.
- If your child makes comments or asks you questions about race-based school incidents or something they read or watched, Further the discussion with questions such as, “How do you feel about that?” and “Why do you think that?”. This is also helpful if your child heard something insensitive or if your child experienced racial bias themselves. Before responding to their statement or question, figure out where it came from and what it means from their perspective. See Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events for more information.
These conversations lay the groundwork for kids to begin to understand and celebrate the beauty of diversity and how to be inclusive. As children mature, the answers to questions will become more complex. These are moments to learn what the child understands or is struggling to understand about racial bias. Often, these more complex questions are the result of something they’ve overheard, viewed online, or personally experienced. As with every conversation with the children in your life, the most important thing when approaching an important subject matter is to create a welcoming space for them to openly express their thoughts, ask questions, and know that they will be met with kindness, openness, and the desire to understand.
To create a culture of inclusiveness, we must take an honest look at our own biases so we can take action — when we know better, we do better! Understanding the way people feel about and behave toward those outside their own group allows us to challenge intolerance and racism and make space for those being marginalized. As we begin to learn more about the lived experiences of others, we can help combat the realities of systemic oppression and create a more equitable world where everyone experiences a steadfast sense of true belonging. When children witness your intentional anti-racism and welcoming inclusiveness, they will begin to see the world with more clarity and compassion.
If you are looking for an exceptionally skilled nanny, newborn care specialist, or private educator for your child, we’d love to hear from you!
If you feel that you have what it takes to become an Adventure Nanny, reach out to us!