4 Ways To Talk To Your Kids About Racism, Protests & Police Brutality Against Black People

The most difficult conversations are the ones worth having.

4 Ways To Talk To Your Kids About Racism, Protests & Police Brutality Against Black People Rena Schild / Shutterstock

As the fight against systemic racism continues across the country, parents are struggling to help their children understand exactly what is happening.

The protests in reaction to George Floyd’s murder have sparked necessary and overdue conversations in our homes.

And while it’s normal to want to protect your child from the horrors and injustices in the world, there are situations where sheltering your kids is failing them. This is one of those situations.


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Your child is growing up in a moment of transformative history, and it's crucial that they are raised to not repeat the mistakes of the past. 

Educating children on police brutality and racial violence is a high-stakes issue, but parents who have their children’s best intentions at heart know that knowledge is power. Raising your child to be anti-racist will equip them to understand, navigate, and, hopefully, overcome racial injustice as they get older. 

Here's how to talk to kids about racism, police brutality against black people, and the protests occurring throughout the world.

RELATED: 13 Best Books, Movies & Podcasts To Educate Yourself About Racism


1. Remember that any conversation is better than no conversation.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children start to notice racial differences as early as 6 months and can internalize racial biases from as young as 2 years old.

Of course, we all want to believe that our children will grow up in a world where the color of your skin will not denote any particular privileges. But the painful reality that recent protests have exposed is that we are a long way away from this.

This “color-blind” attitude denies the existence of racism and delegitimizes the discrimination that black people face on a daily basis. 

Children are absorbing information and forming their own biases and prejudices from infancy, so having meaningful conversations about racism will help them shape their knowledge in a more positive way.  This study even found that frequent conversations about race foster more tolerance in children.


Plan out what you want to say in a calm, rational way that takes their age and personality into consideration.

Maybe they have a favorite celebrity who has spoken out about racial injustice or maybe their favorite Disney movies lack diversity. Use things they’re interested in to educate them about the unjust way the world operates.  

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2. Embrace their curiosity.

Kids can be full of questions, and when it comes to talking about racial violence, some of those questions can be difficult for parents to hear or even answer.

But these questions come from their desire to learn more, and shutting down difficult topics only puts barricades between your child and knowledge. If you don’t have all the answers, learn with them, and ask them questions in return.


Nailed It! host, Nicole Byer, recently spoke out on Instagram about the need for healthy questions to be exchanged between parents and children:



A post shared by Nicole Byer (@nicolebyer) on Jun 2, 2020 at 2:15pm PDT

"A good way to explain to kids #blacklivesmatter: You like this black lady right? She’s silly? She makes you tee hee hee? You would be sad if a police officer hurt her right? Well, this is the current country we live in where someone you like can be hurt by the color of their skin, and people in charge aren’t doing a f***ing (you can replace that with dang if ya kids are soft) thing about it.

So they are protesting, and the looters... well, some of it is staged as a distraction, some are opportunistic, and some are people who’ve been oppressed for so long it bursts. And nice cops? There are no nice cops because if a cop was nice they wouldn’t watch and participate in violence against black and brown people.


If cops were really nice they would have spoken out about police brutality years ago and maybe walked out on their precincts to send a message that they are against this. Instead, they dress up like your GI Joe doll and are very mean.

The curfews, the helicopters, the police in riot gear is all because black people have asked to not be killed... that’s it. There’s literally nothing else to it.

Now, once a week let’s read about s*** (stuff for the soft kids) that happens to black people that doesn’t get covered in schools like Juneteenth, black Wall Street, how black people have influenced most of pop culture today and aren’t credited or it’s just co-oped... and if you do this post about [it]. Post about the black history you teach your white kid to maybe inspire another white parent to do the same thing."

A 2019 Harvard Medical School report states that children who experience racism are more likely to suffer from chronic stress. For parents of non-white children, healthy discussions around race and racism can ease some of their confusion and stress. 


RELATED: Why I Support Black Lives Matter Even Though Both Of My Parents Are Police Officers

3. Lead by example.

Kids don’t always learn by listening, but they do learn by seeing. Practice the behavior you want them to replicate.

A 2018 study from the Sapienza University of Rome suggests that parents' subtle prejudices lead children to practice explicit bias towards other races and ethnicities.

Include them in the anti-racist activities you do daily, show them the petitions you’re signing or donations your making. Take them with you to peaceful protests or have them make signs to put in your windows.

Look at your own inner circle. Is your child surrounded with friends and family members of different races? Tell your child about how you learned about racism from your black friends or from personal experience.


Call out the racism you overhear in the grocery store, on the playground, or even from members of your family. Join a parent’s board at their school and seek out more diversity in the school faculty or student body. 

RELATED: How To Protest Safely During A Pandemic

4. Have ongoing discussions. 



A post shared by Columbia Pediatrics (@columbiapediatrics) on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:09am PDT

Your child is influenced by a lot of external forces, so the best way you can maintain control over their attitudes toward race is by continuously engaging in educational practices with them.

Speak to them about what’s going on at school or with their friends to monitor what they’re experiencing and witnessing outside the home. This will benefit you as much as them because you’ll both be constantly checking in with your privileges or biases.

It also helps to teach them about race and diversity with educational books and films. Here are a few to read or watch together:

  • Malala’s Magic Pencil is a picture book by Malala Yousafzai, a child activist. The book encourages young people to push for change.
  • Last Stop On Market Street is a book set on a public bus and celebrates the diversity of the world.
  • Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness teaches children about privilege, white supremacy, and what it means to be anti-racist.
  • Hidden Figures is a film about the inspiring African-American women behind one of NASA’s most important launches in history.
  • The Hate U Give is great for older kids and teens. It’s a film that follows a 16-year-old girl coming to terms with the death of her unarmed friend who was shot by police officers.

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.

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