Bias incidents cloud our news feeds and heighten our worry at a time of divide. Faced with a hostile environment, we sought the counsel of notable experts on how parents can fight hate at each stage of childhood and guide their children.
There is a horrible golden age for all kinds of hate in the United States, including racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and transphobia. Parents are concerned that their children would be exposed to prejudice and discrimination from an early age, which could lead to a distorted perspective of the world. But there is some good news: You can fight back against hate before it has a chance to spread.
0 to 6 years
Laying the groundwork for a healthy future by cultivating compassion and tolerance in the early years is your primary responsibility at this stage. Fortunately, your youngster already has an advantage: an unadulterated disregard for what makes people unique. However, children are quite conscious of our differences, but they are not born with the ability to differentiate between people based on their gender, race, or ethnicity. They don’t have a natural bias.
It is hoped that children who grow up in different societies, whether racially, economically, or in other ways, will develop a worldview that embraces diversity. However, research suggest that it does assist.
However, if your child isn’t exposed to people who aren’t like them in appearance or lifestyle, you should bring the world into your home: Eat and watch films from diverse cultures to learn about them as a group. Encouraging a multicultural education for your child begins with a simple request: If you’re multilingual, use your native tongue or encourage your youngster to learn a second one.
You don’t need to lecture a child this young about the dangers of prejudice. Conversations aren’t necessary all the time, but when they do come up, have them. They must have sensed something was off since they were terrified. As a result, you’d be eager to discuss it with them. Children’s anti-racism education might be difficult, but keeping the scope and terminology manageable is the key.
Six to eight-year-olds
At this age, it’s easier to talk about hate openly, but you shouldn’t assume it needs to be a formal discussion. Without realizing it, families discuss these concerns on a daily basis. It’s easy for young children to discern what’s fair and what isn’t. Using that as a starting point, we can talk about unfairness.
Let your child be your compass. You don’t have to take the lead in a conversation with a child this young because they’re capable of expressing their thoughts and feelings. Inquire as to how well she comprehends what she hears. What are the kids saying at school? What are they talking about? As a result, you’ll be able to maintain a level of discourse that is both reassuring and honest.
9-11 years old
According to child psychologists, the responsibility of assisting children in processing frightening events has shifted dramatically in the last few decades. The widespread use of technology exposes children to the knowledge they are ill-equipped to comprehend.
It used to be advised to turn off the television and not enable children to see images of death. On all the other screens they come across, they’ll notice it. Consequently, we must assist them in comprehending what they are seeing and hearing.
Your youngster may also be able to pick up on the prejudices of the people they’re close to at this stage. An anti-homosexual meme is shared by grandma, and your neighbor goes on the attack at the BBQ. Because your child cares about this person, but their beliefs differ from their family’s, your youngster may be feeling a little lost. Address the inequalities that exist. It’s best to speak in a neutral tone.
Youth in the Middle School Years and the Adolescent Years
As children near the end of their formative years, they solidify their sense of self and create the groundwork for who they will become in the future. This age can be a turning point, as we’ve seen in the news. Many, if not most, children will choose a life of acceptance, compassion, and respect for others. Some people will choose a more sinister route.
It’s important to speak up if you see your child engaging in prejudiced thinking or hate speech, whether it’s on the internet or in person. Adolescents are in the process of figuring out who they are and what they stand for. Be mindful of the fact that adolescents frequently fail to grasp the magnitude of a situation.
Other kids may feel obliged to take action when confronted with these difficult issues. Parents should encourage this strong desire in their children. Taking action gives you a feeling of power and mastery. When you get involved in activism, you take back control of your life. In the face of adversity, it’s reassuring to know that you’re making a difference and that you’re not alone.
Of course, this is not a simple task. Because these topics are so difficult, you may be tripped up. However, your finest tool in this situation, as in all others, is your gut feeling. These discussions may not be pleasant, but they are essential. When it comes to teaching our children, we need to do more than just focus on the simple stuff.