Unlike having the sex discussion with your child, the racial discussion, while no less important, should be a bit easier. Discussing racial differences is vital if we are to change our society into a diverse and accepting people. Consider some thoughts about the importance of this discussion.
First, as parents, you should always model the proper respect for others different from you. This is not optional and can never start too early. If you want your children to grow into a diverse adult, accepting men and women, you must never allow anything less than the ideal to come into your home. Never tell racial jokes or belittle others. Do not cast aspersions about someone else in front of your child.
As parents realize that your child will never be more accepting than you are. Your prejudices will be his or her prejudices. Your likes will be their likes, and it is incumbent upon you as a parent to always be on your best behavior in front of your children.
An excellent way to teach your children is to constantly expose them to others who are different. Attend a diverse church, place your children in situations where diversity in a way of life. A great way to expose your children to different viewpoints is to host an exchange student from another country. Not only will this provide great training, but your child will make a friend for life with someone from another country.
Look for teachable moments with your child to expose racial prejudice and wrong, and discuss the issue. Ignoring bias is never a positive thing. Exposure and punishment, if necessary, should be the minimal response. If you are guilty, let your child see you apologize.
Our recent election of an African-American as president is a great opportunity to use this great historical moment to teach the importance of how race has been such a limiting factor to progress in our country. Do not leave the teaching of history to someone else, especially when it is the history of race. It is a good idea to bone up on history. Know the facts and then teach them to your children.
Share great moments such as weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations with friends of different races with your children, allowing them to see them in normal every day activities. Children need this normality and should be able to put race in the correct context. Psychologically, humans tend to organize their world based on experience. When things like race are distorted in importance, it tends to give an exaggerated importance in young minds, making them more likely to be bigoted and unaccepting.
Another great tool to use with your kids is to provide them with diverse books to read with a rich diversity in settings, peoples, historical periods, etc. Books are great ways to expose young people to new thinking.
Always address issues related to TV programs or other instances where racial slurs are encountered. Never let the opportunity pass to talk about how words can be unacceptable. Coming from a mom and dad who practice what they preach, these instances will take on new importance in a child’s life.
Remember that your children will always model what you, as a parent, practice in many areas of your life. Race is no different. Regrettably, your children will never rise above the example you set for them. Make sure the example is exemplary.