Honor Black History by Raising Anti-Racist Children
Every February, we celebrate Black History Month, but it is critical to remember that black history is American history and should be celebrated all year. Some ways to celebrate all year include, reading books or watching movies that represent diversity. Diversity can often be found in books and toys, but you may need to look for it. Another way to highlight diversity is visiting cultural events or taking family trips to museums that tell stories often left out of school curriculum. Most importantly, expose your children to new information and let your children know you are available for questions, encourage an open dialogue, and if age appropriate, encourage your children to do their own research about Black History Month and racism.
Understand How Racism Can Affect Child Development:
- We know that racism is a form of stress for children in America.
- Science has proven that when children’s stress levels are activated for long periods of time, it can severely impact their brain development. This can have lifelong consequences on learning, behavior and both physical and mental health.
- This toxic stress is activated by constant coping with systemic racism and everyday discrimination. Children pick up on this from a very young age, this helps us understand the early origins of racial disparities in chronic illness across the lifespan. Ther is overwhelming evidence; Black, indigenous, and other people of color in the US have, on average, more chronic health problems and shorter lifespans that whites at all income levels.
- People of color receive unequal treatment in health and education systems. Less opportunities and access to health, education, economic opportunities and pathways to wealth accumulation are not provided to people of color. All of this shows how systemic racism in our country has created conditions that disproportionately undermine the health and development of children and families of color.
- Everyday stress of discrimination and racism can also have a huge impact on the mental health of parents and caregivers. When the mental health of a caregiver is impacted, this can cause excessive stress on a child. Thankfully, new science has taught us new strategies to prevent the lasting damage of this stress and help children and communities build resilience.
- In order to help families of color build resilience, we need to not only offer resources, but also create new strategies that address the inequities that systematically threaten the health and wellbeing of children of color and the adults who care for them.
- In addition to looking at economic and social policies, we all need to actively search for unseen, restrictive biases in ourselves. We need to implement equitable policies based on antiracism, for fair hiring and lending practices, housing and home ownership programs and other community policing initiatives.
Raise Anti-Racist Children:
- It is not about one conversation; it is about how you act all the time.
- Acknowledge that white privilege exists. Teach your children about what it means. White privilege does not mean white people will never have struggles. It means white people have an advantage by doing nothing other than being born white.
- Don’t pretend color doesn’t exist. Race is part of a person’s identity, if you teach your child it is not important, you are teaching them they do not need to know and understand a person, truly.
- Talk about racism when children are young. Educate your children about racism, do not leave this up to society, but keep their age and maturity in mind when having these conversations.
- Answer questions about race honestly and factually. If your child asks you a loud question in public, and you ignore or quiet them to avoid ridicule, you can give your child the impression race is something to view negatively, ignore, or even fear. Acknowledge the question, ask them why they asked you. Note any differences your child might bring up, but it can be helpful to point out similarities, too.
- Be a good role model. Your children are always watching you and mimic your behavior. Model different ways you can help those around you who might be experiencing racism or discrimination.
- Don’t hide your emotions. It is okay to be sad and confused about current events in America. Name your feelings and let your kids know it is okay to be open with their feelings, too.
- It is okay to feel uncomfortable. Doing the research and educating yourself on how to raise anti-racist children might initially make you nervous. Accept the feeling. As author Brian Tracy once said, “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”
Navigating parenting today can be hard, but we are here to support you! If you have questions about raising anti-racist children, or parenting in general, call our 24/7 Parenting HelpLine: 1-800-243-7337.