Resources for Talking to Kids About Racism, Diversity, and Social Justice

The work that we do at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region improves lives and helps build bridges and better understanding among different groups in the communities we serve. Part of building that understanding is helping our children process their feelings in the wake of injustice, such as the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Many children are feeling anxious, confused, or scared and have questions about what is happening across our nation and in the local Capital Region community. Discussions about race and racism can be difficult but checking in with your Little in the wake of racist violence is crucial.

Talking with a trusted adult and finding ways to take positive action is important for children. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region has taken the time to collect some resources for our Bigs, Littles, and families to have open discussions about racism, diversity, and social justice.

  • National Association of School Psychologists – Supporting Vulnerable Students in Stressful Times: Tips for Parents: The current climate of divisiveness, anger and fear in this country is having a significant impact on many children and adults. Feelings of uncertainty are particularly heightened for communities and families struggling to understand and cope with hate-based violence, discriminatory or threatening actions or speech, and shifting policies that are causing new uncertainties for specific populations. This marks an important time for families and schools to work together to foster supportive relationships, to help children understand their emotional reactions, and to teach effective coping and conflict resolution strategies. The tips and related resources in this document are intended to help you support your children.
  • National Association of School Psychologists – Understanding Race and Privilege: Across the nation, children of all backgrounds are experiencing a time in which discussions about race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and culture are at the forefront of their everyday lives. Many people avoid these discussions because they fear that conversations about race, bias, and racism lead to feelings of anger, guilt, discomfort, sadness, and at times disrespect. The current state of our Union, however, no longer allows for these tough conversations to be ignored. While uncomfortable for some, school psychologists are in a position to lead or at least participate in these conversations. By using their knowledge and expertise of systems-level change, school psychologists can facilitate the dialogue to bring about positive, productive outcomes.
  • Racial Equity Tools is designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity. This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.
  • Girl Scouts – Help Your Kids Take Action Against Racism:  Whenever we see injustice, we all have a responsibility to confront it. Every day, no matter our background or our age, every single one of us has a role to play in taking on an unfair system while working to build a new one that truly works for all. Guiding our girls in learning to recognize and challenge structures and practices that fuel inequality and cause harm helps them play an active role in creating the positive change our society needs.
  • Glazer Children’s Museum – Social Justice: We have created a page on our website filled with free resources for families about racism, trauma, violence, and the historic context of activism. This is just our small piece of the puzzle. To the black and brown families in our community – we are here for you. We will help you help your children through this.
  • Edutopia – Teaching Young Children About Bias, Diversity, and Social Justice: As a society and within our educational institutions, discussions about bias, diversity, discrimination, and social justice tend to happen in middle and high schools. We’ve somehow decided that little kids can’t understand these complex topics, or we want to delay exposing them to injustices as long as possible (even though not all children have the luxury of being shielded from injustice). However, young children have a keen awareness of and passion for fairness. They demand right over wrong, just over unjust. And they notice differences without apology or discomfort.
  • USA Today – George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?: Should we tell the children? How? Those are among the many questions parents are asking after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Many white parents wonder whether to talk with their kids at all, while parents of color swallow their grief and fear to have “the talk” once again.
  • – Supporting Young People in the Wake of Violence and Trauma: Episodes of violence and trauma in young people’s communities, especially those that arise from a place of systemic inequality, prejudice and racism, impact young people’s lives in a variety of ways. Mentors are uniquely positioned to help young people process these experiences by providing a space to express their emotions, ask for help, and channel uncertain feelings into positive, constructive action. However, mentors may need strategies for supporting these discussions and actions as well as support for being allies to young people trying to make sense of their feelings. For example, in the aftermath of tragic incidents of racial profiling and violence resulting from police actions, young people may feel unsafe, angry, frustrated, sad, and powerless. This guide was developed to help mentors build relationships with young people that affirm their experiences and cultivate a sense of safety after incidents of violence or traumatic events occur.
  • Child Mind Institute – A Clinical Perspective on Talking to Kids About Racism: As the nation mourns the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans, discussions of racism and violence dominate the national conversation as well as the conversations we’re having at home. Talking to kids about racism and racialized violence is hard, but it’s also necessary — today and as kids grow up. Below, advice for parents on this topic from two of the Child Mind Institute’s expert clinicians.
  • Nia House Learning Center – 40+ Children’s Books about Human Rights & Social Justice: Young people have an innate sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair. Explaining the basics of human rights in age appropriate ways with stories and examples can set the foundation for a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and global citizenship. As a parent to a preschooler and a professor of peace and human rights education, here are my top picks for children’s books that discuss important issues—and that are visually beautiful. Some of the books listed offer an overview of rights; the majority show individuals and organizations past and present who have struggled to overcome injustices. All offer different levels of child-friendly images, concepts and text.