How to Educate Your Kids about Racism

Racism is a complex subject to discuss, especially with children. Parents and trusted educators must take the initiative to teach kids about race and racial issues in an age-appropriate way so they can understand and stand up against racism. Raising children in a world where racism still exists can be challenging for parents. How do you even begin to educate your kids on the effects of racism while fostering respect, empathy and keeping them safe simultaneously?

The first step is understanding that parents are the most significant influence and supporter of their children as they develop. Parents can actively teach their children about racism by leading by example and demonstrating the positive attitudes for the child to use. Showing respect towards people from all backgrounds teaches your child valuable lessons about equality that will stay with them far into adulthood. Demonstrating solidarity with marginalized groups, discussing injustices and how one might take action, and participating in meaningful conversations about racial issues are all things you can do as a parent to support their empowerment to fight against racism.

External Factors Affecting Children

Due to strong social media, peer, and societal influences in everyday life, it’s essential to establish an open and supportive household that fosters dialogue and teaches how to deal with negative external influences. This could be the effects of racism, drugs, or violence toward others. As parents, it is difficult to monitor every single activity—whether at school or while online—so it’s vital to instill a strong foundation of inclusivity and acceptance while working to dispel what your children might be subjected to while interacting with the world around them. Children learn from what they see, hear, feel, and experience, which takes place in the home as much as outside the home.

Parents shouldn’t ignore the behavior or attitudes that their children or their friends display. Take corrective and immediate action if racist attitudes and comments are made. Sit down with your child and discuss what prejudice is and where these ideas came from while highlighting the harm and destruction they have on the lives of real people.

In our society, there are subtle and not so subtle racist prejudices, norms, behaviors, and influences (especially on social media) that are impacting our kids and ourselves.

Having Open Communication

Engaging in meaningful conversations about racism is integral to raising informed and socially-conscious children. Parents can start by creating a safe environment where their kids feel comfortable asking questions without fear of reprimand and create empathy towards others given the serious impact of racist attitudes, behaviors, and systems. Emphasizing how we all benefit from diversity and inclusiveness as human beings is critical to addressing this sensitive and important topic as a family.

Parents should also take the lead and discuss what prejudice is and where these ideas came from while highlighting the harm and destruction they have in the lives of real people. This will help your child explore their feelings and thoughts while building humility, respect, and sensitivity towards others of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Remember these are serious topics that impact everyone differently and your children’s awareness and understanding occurs over time. Create a context for understanding given their age and life circumstances. If something happened at school, use this opportunity to open up about how this circumstance made them feel and what happens next. Lead your child safely into the more complex subject content and let them build toward opening their minds and hearts through conversation and self-expression.

If you suspect your child may have been influenced by racism or racists beliefs, then it’s important to identify the source and ask your child why they believe these racist ideas when conversing. Monitor peers and other influences and make sure you have the conversation as often as needed to help foster empathy and understanding. A good starting point includes actively pointing out biases or stereotypes when watching TV shows or movies, discussing race-related events within an appropriate context, and reinforcing that everyone should be respected regardless of skin color or differing opinions. Make these conversations relate to their lives as the larger political context is quite overwhelming for younger children.


Educating yourself and children about the different aspects of racism, its history, racial justice and advocacy, and the progress humans have made toward inclusivity is essential to continuing to achieve a tolerant and open-minded society.

It begins with instilling respect for different cultures, values, and beliefs in kids while emphasizing the need to stand up for those who cannot do so themselves. Moreover, teaching kids critical-thinking when consuming popular media messages portraying prejudice or stereotypes can help further equip them with the tools needed should they come across such instances later in life. Fostering empathy and inclusiveness is essential to positive child and youth development.

Teaching kids about racial justice and advocacy allows parents to model respectful conversations while promoting empathy and acceptance of everyone regardless of their ethnicity or cultural background, ultimately leading us closer to a more equitable future where everyone is treated fairly, respected and appreciated equally, regardless of skin color or background.

If you need support in addressing the issue of racism with your child or a serious issue emerges, seek help by calling the National Parent Helpline® at 855-427-2736.