The ABC’s of Helping Kids to Understand Issues of Race



Psychology tells us the best place to combat implicit bias is at home (Husband, 2012). I have had numerous White friends tell me over the years “I don’t see race and I don’t teach my kids to see race.” What that statement tells me, is that they are already creating a space in their child’s head for marginalizing certain aspects of American History, thousands of people’s stories and family legacies and negating the color of a person’s skin and thereby their life’s experiences in that skin. How do we start that conversation at home, and do we as parents living in America have an obligation to educate our kids on issues of race? As a parent, I strongly believe we do.

Some quick tips on discussing race with your kids:

  • Early and often exposure to children and adults of other races. Just being exposed to others that appear different can help engage conversations in an organic way and your role in bringing it up in conversations. Helping them not to generalize like “everyone is equal” by helping them to understand how power and privilege are tied to racism. If you live in a homogenous area, take them to places and cities where they can be exposed to people who are not like them.
  • Relation to real life circumstances should be encouraged in conversation. Talking about why Barbie is mostly blonde or why there are some Disney princesses that are brown are great ways to discuss race in a practical non-stressful manner for the parent. Helping them to understand that ignoring race and issues of race doesn’t make those issues disappear.
  • Ask your kids for their point of view instead of telling them your own. Offering age appropriate information that permits them to have a voice and then gently correcting that voice if it shows a bias is a good place to start. For example, seeing a group of Black teenage males and assuming they are in a gang or automatically feeling fear and why that behavior should not be assumed based on race.
  • Be careful not to negatively influence your children with your passion or position on race. This has been shown to lead to situational anger in some instances with young African-American boys (Stevenson, Reed, Bodison & Bishop, 1997). As your child becomes a teenager or experiences injustice first hand, talk with your child about ways to cope with and overcome injustice. Teach advocacy and activism as an outlet for frustration for systemic racism.

Finally, if you see behaviors in your child that are of concern, please seek professional advice. Make no mistake, racism is learned, and it is entirely possible you have implicit biases you may not be aware of. If you would like to learn more about your own biases consider taking the IAT and learning more about yourself. It may help you become a better parent.

Take the Test here!


Husband, T. (2012). “I don’t see color”: Challenging assumptions about discussing race with young children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 39, 365-371.

Stevenson, H.C., Reed, J., Bodison, P. & Bishop, A. (1997). Racism stress management: Racial socialization beliefs and the experience of depression and anger in African-American youth. Youth Society, 29, 2, 197-222

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