EPIC Blog: Celebrating Uniqueness - 4KIDS
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EPIC Blog: Celebrating Uniqueness

July 24th, 2020 l Author: Terri Galindo, LCSW, LMFT

To continue the discussion on the subject of racism with children and youth, we need to address the uniqueness of each individual and group, as well as the things that unify us. We must also think about the child or children with who we are having the discussion. There are a few topics to consider when we are discussing race: God’s love for us, we are all sinners, that history influences all, there is beauty and dignity in all.

Consider the Child’s Age (Emotional and Physical)

The emotional and physical maturity of children will influence how they receive information. If children have histories of abuse or neglect, have been victims of racism, and/or are living with a family of a different race or ethnicity, they will receive information differently and might need more time to absorb and understand what is going on.

Infants and Toddlers

Many think that speaking with young children about race is too early, that they don’t understand. Rachel Berman (graduate program director of the School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto) has identified that children as young as six months old recognize and react to racial differences. As their first faith trainers, parents have the responsibility to help children to accept differences. “Children as young as two or three may start asking about differences, such as disabilities, gender and physical characteristics like skin color and hair,” explains Berman. This is also a time when children are learning the basics of right and wrong, being nice or being mean, and that some people should be avoided. These are their first experiences with the sin nature.

Use picture books and dolls of different races and cultures to build the foundation that all things are created by God, that God loves us all, and that we are all unique. Point out differences and similarities in the pictures. Help children to be exposed to children of all races in everyday situations – the same types of situations that your kids experience – like the park, church, or social gatherings.

To counteract any prejudicial messages kids might receive, create an environment where they can learn about the differences and similarities between people of different races, cultures and religions at an early age, says Karen Mock, an educational psychologist and human rights consultant in Toronto. Expose children to dolls of different races and ethnicities. Point out the beauty of all. As children might recognize the color difference in skin, eye color, and hair texture, reinforce the beauty in those differences. Expose children to television shows and movies that positively demonstrate the beauty in diversity.


At around age three, children will start to act on biases that they have developed in their short history. They start to make decisions as to with whom they will play. Some of them will make these decisions based on race. In the grocery store or at church, they might point out seeing someone of a different skin color; they will identify someone of a different gender, or; they might point out someone with a disability. Don’t be quiet or change the subject. Don’t let your embarrassment help you to avoid the topic. Address their comments and questions directly. Ask the child what she thinks about that and point out that God made everyone wonderfully and talk about the beauty in that person. Reinforce that no one person is better than another.

Children at this age can learn more about sin and its effects on us. They might ask if we are all sinners. We can begin to teach them about Jesus coming to save us all, including mommy and daddy. We can reinforce our need for a savior. At this age, picture books are extremely important and helpful. We are given the opportunity, through books that contain a diversity of characters, to identify the beauty in the characters and their unique features that might be the same as our children like intelligence or kindness.

It is also at this time that we can start to introduce history. Children of this age will understand the basic concepts of racism through the stories like that of Moses who lead his people out of Egypt after being slaves that were so poorly mistreated by Pharaoh. This can lead, as the child wishes, to more stories of more recent history. It can also include helping the child to connect with his/her roots.

Ages 6-11:

Children of this age are much more exposed to a more diverse group of people through school, church, and media. They can understand more complex concepts and will ask more specific questions, if you let them. By this age they will know whether or not you are open to conversation. By closing this door, they will begin to go elsewhere for information.

When discussing race with this age group, be specific. When reinforcing concepts like we are all made in the image of God, specify white, black, and brown people, and every shade in between. Discuss the concept of equality. They, through play, will often want things to be fair and just. Discuss how that might relate to issues of racism.

It is at this time that children will recognize that one group thinks they are better than another. Discuss what God thinks of this. This is sin. This is racism. God looks upon us as equal, unique, and as one. Identify what your family believes and find ways for your family to act on that. This is also an excellent time to introduce them to videos or books about the civil rights movement. Speak to children of this age about slavery and racism, what currently exists in our country and what your family can do about it.

Tweens and Teens

Older children can have conversations that include increasingly more sensitive content. It is at this age that parents must be most aware of where children are getting their information. Important conversations can be had about how to search for the truth and how to ensure that the information upon which they are making their decisions is accurate (Shimi Kang, MD, Medical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health for Vancouver community, researcher, author, and parenting expert). Youth can easily find a Twitter stream filled with hate that can lead to extreme views. It is important that parents help their children to critically think. Be open to conversations around the dinner table or during your evening family time. Invite the youth to bring their information to the discussion and, together, dispel any myths that might have influenced the information. Topics can include racial profiling, socio-economic history and influences, organizations that work for social justice (or against it).

It is also at this age that the youth might want to participate in the solution. Further discussions can surround how the family can safely and effectively get involved.