Talking To Kids About Racial Diversity

Posted by Lin Xin Ang on

I would like to ask you, as a mother of three yourself, how did you talk to your kids about racial and diversity issues after the George Floyd incident? Did you use books or other ways to start the topic?

It all started when our family heard about the protesting, looting and rioting that happened recently in the US. We watched live news feeds from YouTube that covered the ongoing protests. Our older kids asked why it was happening, and that was the springboard to our conversations on race and racial prejudice.

My husband explained that it was because many people were angry, as it was not the first time the police had treated coloured people unfairly which resulted in death. The George Floyd incident coupled with high unemployment rates had caused the tipping point for many. It was also important to explain that it was not right to destroy monuments and steal things just because they felt they were treated unfairly or were angry.

I felt really affected about the injustice and struggled for the right words to say. Books are my go-to resource! To dive deeper on the abstract concepts of racism, prejudice. To start talking intentionally about diversity, respecting and celebrating differences and kindness to all.

Taking it back to our local context, we are Singaporean Chinese and form the majority of the population. There are many struggles by our fellow Singaporeans or foreign workers around us that we may not be aware of, because we are not in their shoes.

Your kids are between 1 to 7 years old (according to your website, please correct me if I am wrong), may I know if you used different approaches for the 3 of them? How did the conversation(s) go?

Topics like race, prejudice, even privilege and diversity can be really complex for little ones to understand at their level, so we use a variety of ways to help them relate.

For the older two, we talk about what interest them in the books we read, and I may steer the conversation to encourage them to think about current events.

📗 人 People by Peter Spier⁠ A gorgeous book introducing people and cultures around the world.⁠ Everyone is made differently, with different noses, body shape, hairstyles, skin colors, hobbies, games and cultures!

📗 世界的一天 All In A Day by 安野光雅 We talked about different time zones, cultures and homes across different countries.

📗 最棒的礼物 Peace is an Offering⁠ by Annette LeBox⁠ We learnt about practical ways to show love to others. If our knowledge and conversations are not accompanied by actions, it's futile.⁠

📗 你把水桶加满了吗?Have You Filled a Bucket Today?⁠ by Carol McCloud⁠ We learnt that our actions affect others, and kindness is a choice we can all make daily.

📘 没关系 The Okay Book⁠ by @toddparr⁠ This book helped us to re-examine the things that get us upset. We learnt that it is important to choose our battles and learn to let go of things that may not be such a big deal in the larger scheme of things.⁠

📘 不一样,没关系 It's Okay to Be Different⁠ by @toddparr⁠ We learnt to embrace our individuality and accept others.⁠

📘 和平书 The Peace Book⁠ by @toddparr⁠ We learnt that peace can be found in the simplest of things.⁠

📘 The Invisible People Series by @ameschen Putting ourselves in the shoes of bus drivers, construction workers and domestic helpers help our children develop empathy for others. We learn that everyone has a story, if only we're willing to stop and listen.

With my 7 year old boy, I go a little deeper, showing him a picture of the layers of skin, and share that people with darker skin has more melanin than those with fairer skin. We learn about the wonders of the human body through interactive pop-up books, studying the bones, digestive system and more - realising that we're all the same inside.

With my 5 year old boy, we did an activity shared by a friend @3mm.montessori to engage his hands and mind - first selecting coloured pencils in different shades of brown, and then coloring human cutouts. As we colored, we talked about how different people have different colored skin, and asked if he knows anyone with different color skin in school or in the neighbourhood, what do we know about them, and what do we not know about them.

For my baby girl, I make sure to read age-appropriate books to her with pictures of children of different races, reflecting diversity in our world.

Apart from reading, we also browse online galleries of photos of different kids around the world photographed by Gregg Segal, Gabriele Galimberti and James Mollison. Using the photographs, we talk about how kids eat, sleep and play in different countries. This helps us understand that we are world citizens and other children can be so alike, yet so different. It also helps us be grateful for what we have in present day Singapore. Beyond gratitude, I hope to inspire our kids to look out for the underprivileged and take action to help them.

Why do you think it is important to have such conversations?

Character development in children is something that money cannot buy. We want to raise our kids to be resilient, thoughtful and kind in our eventual absence, so these conversations are crucial for us to shape their worldview.

More is caught than taught, so although conversations are important, we ought to lead by example, making it a point to treat everyone with respect and form meaningful relationships with people of different races. We encourage our kids to greet our neighbours who are of various races, chat with an Indian neighbour whose wife and children are in India and only meet each other physically once or twice a year. We smile and say hello to the men working hard to clear rubbish and wash the blocks in our estate, at times offering them drinks and snacks to show our appreciation to them.

We believe that children should be taught to remember the needy and play a part in sharing social responsibilities, no matter how small the role or amount. As hunger and food are more relatable to children, we have leaned toward supporting food related social initiatives. A portion of our sales at My Story Treasury go toward making a difference through local and global community efforts.