Our country is going through a radical change, and our children are watching and observing. I’m talking about the movement against racism.

The June 8 webpage of www.afineparent.com shared an article entitled “How to Talk to Your Kids About Race.” Young babies categorize, separating things into shapes, color, gender and even race. By 6 months they can distinguish colors of skin. By 3 years old they are already forming biases, often picking playmates with the same color of skin as their own. These discriminations are not taught; they are innate. The idea, that it’s best to avoid talking about race so children won’t learn about racism, can actually have the opposite affect so it’s an important discussion to have early on.

The article shares many well-researched suggestions for how adults can help stem racism in children.

• Educate yourself first before trying to educate your child: Seek out information about people different from yourself. Pay attention to how you are responding to the current news. Read books like Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel. Think about your biases and where they come from.

• Teach your kids by example: Conversations are crucial, however, our kids learn more by what they observe than from what they hear. Never forget, we are teaching something all of the time, by what we do and say. Read books together about people different than you. Ask questions about what they think of the story. Having exchange students encouraged our children to learn about and travel throughout the world. Visit museums and explore. Join celebrations of other cultures such as those in Warm Springs. Explore art, food, clothing, and traditions important to other cultures. Teach what is appropriate (i.e. no black faces or American Indian costumes for Halloween). Monitor movies and TV for accuracy in dress, behaviors, and accents. Encourage learning other languages and information about the countries of origin. Discuss injustices shown on the news and ask your kids what they think.

Expect and honor the many questions you will get. Acknowledge when you don’t know and look for answers together.

• Demonstrate mindfulness and kindness: Mindfulness allows for curiosity and inquisitiveness. “Shushing” a young child when they ask an embarrassing question shuts down conversation, indicating something is wrong. Work on informative ways of responding. Help your children be curious about differences, emphasizing that diversity is what makes being human exciting and beautiful. The article “How to Talk with Kids about Race and Racism” by Rosalind Wiseman points out that it’s important to speak-up when your child says something offensive. Point out why it’s offensive and provide language that helps them take responsibility for the mistake. Be a role model by not tolerating offensive language from other adults, showing it’s not only right but also okay to speak up.

• Practice self-love: In the Ted Talk by Brene Brown on the “Power of Vulnerability,” she stresses the importance of children growing up believing they are worthy of love and belonging. Encourage your children to love themselves while respecting and valuing differences in others. A friend from Warm Springs shared her amazement when her son stated, “I’m not an Indian.” The stereotypes he had been subjected to about his own race didn’t ring true. She realized she had much work to do to help him recognize the beauty of his identity.

• Pay attention to your child’s environment: How are characters portrayed in TV and stories? Ask teachers about the curriculums they are using.

• Advocate and teach safety and caution: Most white families teach little about race and racism. Black families must. Their children need to be taught to be careful. A friend shared the story of a black man who was pulled over by the police while lawfully traveling after dark in his car. Consciously, he responded with what he had learned as a young boy, keep your hands out in front of you, answer “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir” and do what you are told. Most white people can go any place in our country without fear of the police; black people can’t.

Racism is systemic, complex and subliminal, taking many forms, visible and invisible, making it imperative to teach our children about it.