Teaching Your Teens About Racism

We live in a multicultural society; one that prides itself on tolerance, respect, diversity and acceptance. But sometimes deciphering the barrage of messaging from the media, friends, and other sources can be confusing for teenagers. Making racist comments or repeating discriminatory views, even inadvertently, is unacceptable. It’s important that we teach our children how to be sensitive to issues of diversity. Here are some ways in which parents can help teach tolerance to their teens:

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If you make a mistake, apologize and explain why it was wrong.[/pullquote]

Carefully monitor your own jokes and comments. Your teens look up to you, and if you’re making unkind remarks or repeating jokes with a discriminatory tone, you may inadvertently be passing along the wrong messages to your teens. Think about what you’re saying, even in jest, to ensure you’re setting a positive example for your kids. If you make a mistake, apologize and explain why it was wrong.

Teach them what is unacceptable. In no uncertain terms, tell your teens that it is never okay to make fun of someone’s appearance, religion or cultural background. Just as you would never make fun of someone who has a disability, for instance, these are no-nos, too. Explain to them that everyone is different, that we should all be judged based on who we are inside and not where we’re from or what we look like on the outside. Remind them to treat others the way they would want to be treated. If you see or hear your child step out of line, make sure they understand what they did wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Be open to conversation. Allow your teens to ask questions and to be curious. You want them to talk to you about their thoughts rather than spread ignorance or misinformation to others. Let them share their ideas with you first. Think carefully before you respond, and if you need more time to get your thoughts in order or to do some research, that’s okay, too. The important thing is that you make it safe for your teens to talk to you when they are confused. By being calm and thoughtful, they will know they made the right choice.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Educate your children. [/pullquote]

Educate your children. Talk to them about history, read books with them, take them to museums and converse with them about the different religious or cultural holidays as they arise throughout the year. Check the web for upcoming cultural celebrations around the city and give your teens a chance to experience a new tradition or holiday themselves. Do you have friends from different backgrounds who would be willing to invite you over for a celebration or to talk to your teen about their culture? This is a great way to get to know new people and appreciate them in a different light. There are so many opportunities to explore and celebrate diversity in this city; choose one!

Teach your kids to be proud of their own culture. Talk to them about your heritage. Share with them what makes their background special. Explore your traditions and allow them to feel a sense of pride in what makes them unique. They will pass this sense of pride along to others and enable their friends to learn from them. This sense of knowledge and pride in their background will also help give your teens the confidence they need in the face of anyone who discriminates against them. Your teen will know they can rise above the ignorance or fears of others.