Overcoming racial bias: Acknowledge it and talk with kids

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Children are always watching and listening, but since protests for racial justice have spread across the globe, they’re witnessing, absorbing and internalizing possibly more than anyone knows.

A recent statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics says pediatricians are “deeply concerned about the effects of racism on children. Even vicarious racism — secondhand racism witnessed through social media, conversations with friends or family, or media images — harms children’s health.”

So, how can you begin talking with children about racial bias and injustice issues?

Here are a few suggestions to get the conversation started:

• Silence is its own message. Don’t avoid conversations.
• Reflect on your own biases and uncomfortable feelings.
• Color is real. Don’t ignore or pretend it’s not there.
• Start talking about racism early in your child’s life.
• Read books together about racial equality and anti-racism.
• Listen to their questions and be honest with your answers.
• Realize this isn’t one conversation, but rather a series of many.

Be a good example.

“For children and adolescents, of all ages, the most powerful communication strategy is role modeling,” says Dr. Paul Croarkin, a Mayo Clinic pediatric psychiatrist. “Parents and caregivers often underestimate how important their own behaviors and communications with others are versus direct communication with a child.”

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