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Advent Reflections: Love and Race

How to Talk to Children About Race and Culture

By Dr. Brad Schwall

The recent events and protests in the news are not just topics of conversation for adults.  Race and culture are relevant topics to discuss with children and teens.  Children are a “tabula rasa.”  They are free from misinformation and have not developed preconceived impressions.  It's our responsibility to enable them to develop healthy views on race and culture by modeling respect so that they respect people of other races and cultures.

Teach Acceptance

Acceptance is the foundation of respect.  We model what psychologist Carl Rogers termed “unconditional positive regard” - respect for people without conditions. All people have worth.  We share similarities, yet, there are differences among people’s experiences, viewpoints, and traditions.  We accept differences while recognizing similarities.  Children are naturally accepting.  Our observations of the world shape how our children view the world.  Modeling acceptance means respecting people's opinions, not thinking less of people based on race, and being respectful of the traditions and heritage of all.

Encourage Empathy

Empathy helps us strive to understand the experience of another.  We can seek to understand what it is like to live the life of another person.  Assumptions are based on our own experiences.  Others do not have our same experience.  We must try to understand before developing an opinion.  We must accept that we do not fully know the experience of others, but we can listen and be open to hearing how others are treated and how they view culture and race.

Fight Ignorance

Don’t assume that our society has moved past prejudices.  A lack of information about culture and varied life experiences breeds prejudice and inaccurate assumptions.  Avoid generalities and stereotypes when you are talking in front of or with your children.  In our conversations, we can go deeper discussing power and justice in society.  Justice is a systemic issue.  Addressing discrimination requires a multifaceted approach involving government, communities, religious leaders, and citizens. 

Build Relationships

The only way to fight prejudice is through relationships.  Loving others, dialoguing, and working together breaks down barriers and unites us.

Every generation develops new insights and shapes their own approach to race and culture.  We have a responsibility to prepare our children to accept, empathize, advocate for change, and build relationships.

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