Do we need to be talking to kids about skin color?
So many people say that kids don’t see color. Of course, they do! As certainly as they can see flowers of different colors and rainbows.
Do they let it affect their behavior? NO! And that is what we want to ensure. Racism exists. Colorism exists. What we need to do as a community is eradicate it at the root of it. Is it possible to do? Yes. One child at a time.
Do you feel nervous talking to your kids about this essential topic? Without these conversations, doubt and disparity slowly creep into our children’s lives and we don’t even realize it. From those around them, from our silence.
How Our Skin Sparkles
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One afternoon, my son came home and told me, ”My friends and I put our hands together and they said I was different. ” I told this incident to many of my mom friends and ALL of them surprisingly had heard their children and their friends doing the same. I asked them how would they react to their children, many would just laugh it off or said: “it’s just something kids do.”
Yes! It is something kids do. However, it is an important moment to take it as an opportunity to learn.
Now, my children are on the fairer side of the Indian color spectrum. Yet, my son was quite curious to learn about what makes his skin tone different from his own sister’s. I wrote the book How Our Skin Sparkles as an important introduction to the world where many feel that all Indians are of a similar skin tone. In fact, after the release of my book, some desi moms commented that the kids on the cover are not dark enough for their liking.
In many places across the world, fair is considered beautiful, dark is seen as exotic, and skin lightening creams sell like hotcakes. Some kids’ skin color has been described as the color of poop (yup! Two readers told me this about their child). Therefore, It is important that we teach our kids how to hold their own identity early. To fill them with so much confidence via fact-based answers that they can stand up for themselves.
The main goal of my book “How Our Skin Sparkles” is to reiterate that everyone is composed of their actions, choices, feelings, and preferences. Not by the color of their skin or the place they belong to.
How do conversations help children to understand skin color?
- Creating confidence within to stand up for themselves.
- Building empathy.
- Raising awareness of the ways we may be different and yet the same.
- Fostering cultural pride and bringing home how our heritage defines us.
- Understanding why they need to stand up to colorism and racism when they see it.
It is more important now than ever that we talk to our children early about body positivity, self-confidence, and inclusion.
Seven Ways of Talking to Kids about Skin Color
Discuss the Science
I was surprised how few parents talked about the science behind our skin color. I am so glad that all the parents and teachers who picked up my book were happy with the way the disparities in color were portrayed and explained in detail.
Keep Conversations Age-Appropriate
Always. Every child is different. Not every child is ready to comprehend the conversation coming their way. Keep in mind the mental state of your child before you talk to them. For example, if this comes up around the age of three, you would start by just talking about the different skin colors within the family. Keep it simple.
Talk in Positive Terms
When your kids have questions or come to you with comments via people around them, remember to not put anyone down. Talk about skin color in positive terms and let your child understand why someone could have a certain bias.
Choose Content Consciously
Diversify your reading and content. Look for books, movies, plays, and festivals that you can immerse yourself in to help your children see the differences and similarities between people. This could be as difficult as looking for local festivals from other cultures or as easy as picking a multilingual show on your streaming service.
Recognize and Address Bias
“Oh, so and so actress has become so much fairer” or “Take care of your skin, you don’t want to go darker.” If you hear such comments, especially in the presence of your children, address them. Even if it is in the content you consume. If you notice something, point out why it is wrong for your child.
Your child asks a question or makes a comment. You address it. However, even if kids are like sponges, that does not mean that they retain everything. You need to revisit these conversations periodically while doing all of the above.
Don’t overdo it
Balance in everything. That is the key. You don’t want to be pointing out things so often that it becomes a bias or peeve in itself. Use the many ideas here on MKB for activities to talk to kids about racial diversity.
Keep in mind skin color does not define identity. It certainly plays an important part of us and shapes the first impression on people, and often, is the moment we are boxed into a category.
Help your child discover themselves beyond their skin color. How they look is where they came from, but eventually, their actions shape who they become.
Racial Justice: Resources for Teaching Children
Introducing Love for Self and Others Through Books
Fun Activities to Spark Conversations About Racial Diversityby
Aditi Wardhan Singh
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