For those of you who are not in Northeast USA, ignoring the news, or just refusing to look outside, we have a blizzard on our hands here in Washington, DC. It has been incredible--over 36 hours of snowfall and over 2 feet on the ground. Some of us are fine with just staying inside for the next week and a half and some of us need...to...get...out...of...the...house! Driving anywhere isn't an option and even walking is a struggle so your immediate community, your neighbors, are your lifeline.
I love this article because so often when I hear talk of immigrant communities, I hear derogatory and insulting statements about why they cannot acclimate to their adopted country or that they only spend time with people from their home country. I think people so often fail to recognize the importance of community. In a blizzard like this, it becomes incredibly obvious why community is important, but it is important all of the time. Life is not easy and having people around you who genuinely care about you is essential. It is often difficult for many immigrant families to find community outside of people from their home country, because let's face it, Americans aren't always super welcoming. (Need proof?)
So think about your own community and how you would fare without them. Then read the article and put yourself in their shoes. How would these people get along without the community that they created? Could that sense of community have been recreated with others? How welcoming would you have been if these families moved into your neighborhood?
In a previous blog post, I talked about getting adolescents to talk about race. This is a great article to use to start a conversation. It will be interesting to hear their perspective.
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This is the final installment of this series. Even if you have a teen at home or a young adult who is no longer at home, check out some of the previous blogs on this topic as well. Even some of the suggestions in the babies section will be applicable to you and your child. You should check the toddlers/preschoolers and school-aged kids posts as well. And if you are still not sure why it is important to talk about this stuff, find out why here and here. Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the series. Enjoy!
I included young adult in here because once your kids are adults, they will encounter a whole other set of issues regarding race that they may have been shielded from when they were living at home. Don't stop the conversation when your kids leave the house! The brain continues to develop until a child is about 26 so even in their early 20s, they are still trying to make sense of the world. So keep it going well into adulthood.
This is the end of our series. But don't worry, there is more! If you enjoyed it and want weekly inspiration and empowerment for having these conversations and so much more, sign up for our newsletter. Instead of having to remember to check out the blog, you will get great information delivered right to your email. Tips, strategies, articles, and videos so you don't have to figure it all out yourself! When you sign up, you will receive a useful book list that will allow you to put in place one of the first suggestions from this series.
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Welcome back! We are more than halfway through this series. I hope that you are enjoying it so far. Remember, this post builds upon the previous one. In addition to the suggestions listed below, check out the posts for Toddlers and Preschoolers and Babies (yes, babies!). Incorporate as many suggestions as you can. As you go along, you will see just how much these interventions all interact with and contribute to one another. Enjoy!
This is a time of significant cognitive development for kids. Children are now much more logical and linear in their thought process. Their thoughts are not as egocentric, meaning they are able to see how events affect other people and not just them directly. Children can also see how different events are connected and contribute to one another. This cognitive development mirrors their linguistic development, meaning that children are actually able to have conversations about the things that they observe. Therefore, this is a great time to start having real conversations with kids about race. They can actually talk about what they see and hear. Be careful to tailor your language to an age-appropriate level, but do not water down your conversations. Be direct, open, and honest.
Remember that this list builds from the last one. Many of the suggestions in the Toddlers & Preschoolers post are applicable to School-Aged Kids so check it out and apply some of your favorites. Do you have other ideas? Post them in the comments below! And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter! Check back in a few days for tips on kids who hardly seem like they are kids anymore: Teenagers.
Welcome back! This is a continuation from my last post about talking to babies about race. Well, not really talking--it was more about exposing them to it. If you missed the last post in the series, check it out here. Anyway, in addition to the suggestions for the babies, there are some great ways to talk to toddlers about race. Toddler's minds and vocabularies are growing at an incredible rate. They are verbalizing quite a bit more, but they are still not ready to have full-blown conversations about race. So the idea is to take things a step beyond simple exposure and lay the foundation for talks that you want to happen later. Here are some ideas:
This is the time when kids are starting to talk. They are not ready to have intense conversations about race, but the topic can be introduced to them more directly now.
Remember that this list builds from the last one. Many of the suggestions in the Babies post are applicable to Toddlers and Preschoolers so check it out and apply some of your favorites. Do you have other ideas? Post them in the comments below! And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter! Check back in a few days for tips for a slightly older set of kids: School-Aged Kids.
The following will be a series of blog posts about how to introduce the concept of race in your home or classroom. We will start with the youngest ones and go from there. Each of the previous ages build on the other. You can always incorporate suggestions from a younger age. So even if you have a 6 foot tall teenager at home, check this section out and see how you can utilize some of these strategies now. Check back in a few days for the next age: Toddlers/Preschoolers. And don't forget to sign up for the newsletter to receive regular tips like these ones. Enjoy!
Yes! Even babies! In my previous post, I stated that even infants understand that race exists. Obviously, you will not be sitting your child down and talking to them about how racism manifests in our society. But you can open the door to conversations that are sure to come. At this age, it's all about exposure.
I hope that this was a helpful list. Do you have other ideas? Post them in the comments below! And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter! Check back in a few days for tips for a slightly older set of kids-Toddlers & Preschoolers.
If you have ever spent time with a toddler, you know that they love to talk. They ask a constant (and sometimes unrelenting) amount of questions, make random statements that seem to come out of nowhere, and make connections that seem so odd that you think that they are brilliant. I was definitely one of those kids who talked constantly (sorry Mom!) and I never outgrew it. I still talk all the time and ask questions all of the time. Kids do this as a means of making sense of the world around them. The world is a pretty confusing place! There is a lot going on and all of that information can be hard to process. As a child's brain develops, he or she is trying to put things in categories in order to make sense of his or her surroundings. This includes race and ethnicity.
There are people who argue that children are born colorblind; that they don't "see color" until they are taught to. This is absolutely not the case. Studies show that children appear to prefer faces of their own race as young as three-months-old (Kelly, Quinn, Slater, Lee, Gibson, Smith, Ge, & Pascalis, 2005). Children start to really see skin color around 5- or 6-months-old. By 15 months, children are already starting to choose playmates based on racial preference (Burns & Sommerville, 2014). So, all children see color. They have to; it helps them to understand their world. And that's ok. It is the value that they assign these categories that should be addressed.
This is where parents, family members, and educators come in. Race needs to be discussed with kids. If you do not want your kids to assign negative biases to certain racial and ethnic groups, discuss it with them, over and over again. Your kids will receive all kinds of messages about different racial categories. Some of it will come from the home, some from school, some from media and TV, and some just walking down the street. If you leave kids to come to their own conclusions about all of these messages, they will most likely lead to ideas that include negative biases about certain races. I want to be clear that this kind of conversation is important for ALL kids. If your child is a part of a majority racial/ethnic group, you do not want them to think that they are better than others or that they deserve certain things that others do not. You do not want them to become a person who has difficulty interacting with people who are different. If your child is a part of a minority group, you do not want your child internalizing the negative messages that they are bound to hear about their racial/ethnic group. You want to try to shape your child's positive views of him or herself. If your child is multiracial, then the messages that he or she will receive can be incredibly confusing. Help your child to make sense of these mixed messages by engaging in conversation.
This is not the kind of conversation that can happen once and then your kid is good to go. Race is complex-adults do not completely understand it either! So start the conversation early and keep the lines of communication open. Once your child realizes that this is not a taboo topic (which is often what is communicated to kids), they will come to you with more questions. You won't always have the answers and that's ok! You can ponder and discuss and learn right along with your child, which is another value lesson to teach them.
Although this appears to be written mostly for parents, the same applies to teachers, family members, and other loved ones who regularly interact with children.
Let me know your thoughts on this topic. What burning questions do you have? What else do you want or need to know? I have a feeling this will be a topic we visit again...and again...and again...
Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
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