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Talking racism, sexism and politics with your kids



Some upsetting topics are more unavoidable than ever

Talking racism, sexism and politics with your kids


Any parent of a child past toddler stage has learned that kids understand much more than people usually think they do. 

Children start by picking up on moods and vibes, then they begin to decipher words, and then they see cruelty, racism, and sexism, both in everyday life, or, more recently, on the television. Usually years before you have ‘An Important Talk’ – about say, death, or sex, or racism and sexism – you enjoy a little procrastination time, wherein maybe you rehearse what you’ll say.

But things have sped up, and racism and sexism, which were already prevalent in modern media before this election year, are quite literally constantly on the screen. 

So if you thought you could keep putting off this particular awkward discussion, maybe think again. Popsugar has assembled a crack team of mental health pros to help all of us through it.

Make sure in your conversations that you respond not only to the issues, but to the emotions they bring up. For example, if you are talking about how girls or women are sometimes subject to slurs never aimed at boys or men, you might want to first acknowledge the feelings this brings up.

READ MORE: 5 tips on mindfully talking to kids about a non-mindful election

Remember that kids are always watching. And while talking is good, and necessary, how we act in the face of sexism and racism is even more important.

Abigail Gewirtz, Ph.D.
a child psychologist and mother of four

"Parents need to do their own self-reflection about their biases and look around at their own behavior," Review the book Race Talk by Derald Wing Sue a great resource, a fine guide. More books here.

Also, children should feel free to ask questions, even, or maybe especially, awkward ones. "Don't reprimand [children] for noticing racial differences and pointing them out. If you don't allow them to talk, then they aren't able to work through processing their thoughts."

Anandhi Narasimhan, M.D.
board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist

Establish that people may in fact look different, but we're actually all the same. This first step teaches them how to treat people fairly and what that looks like.

When a child watches an election play out on television and in a household, they begin to understand power and strength.

"When you look at our leaders, you want things to be well-rounded," Dr. Shivani Chopra says. "So if you associate that with being a man or you associate that with being white, those are going to naturally conform to your stereotypes."

Children need the knowledge that anything is possible. The white man speaking angrily or dismissive of a woman or a person of color is not the only person in power. 

“If you start teaching kids from a young age that anything is possible and leaders can come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, you completely change the dynamic of how they view politics and how they view leadership.” 

Dr. Shivani Chopra
a psychiatrist


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