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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Talking to Kids about Race

It can be tricky to discuss race with kids. Two nonprofits, EmbraceRace and MomsRising, created the following set of tips to help parents navigate the process.

1. Start early. By 6 months of age, babies are noticing racial differences; by age 4, children have begun to show signs of racial bias. Let your child know that it’s perfectly okay to notice skin color and talk about race. Start talking about what racial differences mean and don’t mean.

2. Encourage questions. Encourage your child to ask questions, share observations and experiences, and be respectfully curious about race. Expose your child to different cultural opportunities—photographs, films, books, or cultural events, for examples—and discuss their experiences. You don’t have to be an expert on race to talk with your child. Be honest about what you don’t know, and work with your child to find accurate information.

3. Be mindful. You are a role model to your child. What you say is important, but what you do—the diversity of your friendship circle, for example—is likely to have a bigger impact. If your child doesn’t attend a diverse school, consider enrolling her or him in after-school or weekend activities, such as sports leagues, that are diverse. Choose books and toys that include persons of different races and ethnicities.

4. Face and know your own bias. We’re less likely to pass on the biases we identify and work to overcome. Give your child an example of a bias, racial or otherwise, that you hold or have held. Share with your child things you do to confront and overcome that bias.

5. Know and love who you are. Talk about the histories and experiences of the racial, ethnic, and cultural groups you and your family identify with. Talk about their contributions and acknowledge the less flattering parts of those histories as well. Tell stories about the challenges your extended family has faced and overcome.

6. Develop racial cultural literacy. Study and talk about the histories and experiences of groups we call African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and whites, among others. Be sure your child understands that every racial and ethnic group includes people who believe different things and behave in different ways.

7. Be honest. Be honest with your child, in age-appropriate ways, about bigotry and oppression. Children are amazing at noticing patterns, including racial patterns, such as, for example, who lives in their neighborhood versus their friends’ neighborhoods. Help them make sense of those patterns, recognizing that discussing bigotry and oppression may be a part of your explanation. Be sure your child knows that the struggle for racial fairness is still happening and that your family can take part in that struggle.

8. Tell stories. Tell stories about people, including women, children, and young adults, who are fighting racism.

9. Be active. Don’t be a “bystander” on race. Help your child understand ways to bring about change.

10. Plan for a marathon, not a sprint. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure” or “Let’s come back to that later, okay?” But then do come back to it. Make race talks with your child routine. Race is a topic you should plan to revisit again and again in many different ways over time. 

EmbraceRace ( is a multiracial community dedicated to sharing and developing best practices for raising and caring for kids in the context of race. MomsRising ( is a multicultural organization working to increase family economic security and end discrimination against women and mothers.