Start the Conversation: Talking to Your Kids about Race

By Melanie Gasmen-Fleck

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day coming up, we’re honoring Dr. King’s life and his remarkable work toward achieving racial equality. We also think this is a great opportunity for you to explain to your kid the holiday’s significance and why we observe it. Civil rights, racial injustice, and the importance of diversity—these are all topics that may not come up naturally when we talk to our kids. These conversations may be difficult to broach, but they’re crucial in our steps toward equality and empowering our children. 

We encourage you to keep Dr. King’s efforts going. Now, more than ever, we must disregard “colorblindness,” and introduce our kids to race as well as empathy. According to sociologist Dr. Margaret Hagerman’s interview with TODAY, “kids are learning and hearing about race regardless of whether parents are talking to them about it.” She also added that “not talking about race causes children to come to a lot of harmful, problematic and factually inaccurate conclusions

Parenthood doesn’t come with a guidebook on how to talk to your kids about complex issues though. So we’ve gathered go-to resources and ways to help you start the conversation! While our kids may not understand the complexity of these issues just yet, we can certainly start laying the groundwork for them today.

  1. Think about the “Why”. In order to approach talking about why the civil rights movement came about, and the adversity African-Americans and people of color still face, be sure to listen to or read these finds that go into why racism exists.
  1. Get insight into what’s age-appropriate. These reads share ways to teach your kids to be mindful of race, no matter their age.
  1. Read them a children’s book that fosters racial equality. These kids books don’t sugar-coat racism, but they also won’t overwhelm them. They instead offer different perspectives.
  1. Join and get active in these communities! These incredible groups and networks provide endless support and ideas on how to incorporate social justice more in your life.

To make a better world for our kids, we can start by helping them understand the world’s hardships. Being open and honest about the historic injustices African-Americans and other people of color had and still have to face will help kids absorb, reflect, and hopefully stand up against discrimination. We hope that one day they will also take action—just like the 200,000 demonstrators in 1963 who marched toward Lincoln Memorial and listened to Dr. King and how he had a dream.

Illustration by Ilka Mészely for Bravery Magazine