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Racism and xenophobia

What is racism or xenophobia?

Racism is antagonism directed towards a person based on their racial or ethnic group. Xenophobia is prejudice against people from other countries.

Even as adults, dealing with emotions related to racism or xenophobia is difficult.

By having a frank conversation with your child, you can help validate their feelings, acknowledge how racism or xenophobia might affect them, and help them cope when confronted with racism.

What does racism or xenophobia look like for your child?

Children might experience or witness racism or xenophobia because of the color of their skin, birthplace, native language, culture, or religion.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to shield our children from discrimination or hate crimes, particularly as they become prevalent in the news or social media. While every child will cope differently, it's important to understand that children might be afraid that their families - or even themselves - might become victims of the violence they see on TV and online.

When to start conversations

It’s important to bring up the topic even before an issue appears. Help your child deal with racism and xenophobia by teaching them about it beforehand.

Prepare for the conversation

This will be even more difficult if you’ve experienced racism or xenophobia. But it’s important to have these conversations with your child.

Make sure you’re mentally and emotionally prepared for these conversations.

Get help if you need it, be prepared to talk about your own experiences or any current events.

Talking to your children about racism or xenophobia

Start a conversation

Ask your child directly about their experiences with racist behavior. It's helpful to share your experiences with racism and talk about how it made you feel. It's important to be able to help your child develop a vocabulary for feelings that arise during experiences with racism — these may include things like "humiliation," "anger," or "sadness."

In conversation

Try to stay calm. Don't leave your child feeling they need to minimize what they have experienced to protect your feelings.

After listening, ask if it would be helpful to discuss strategies for dealing with racist behavior. Also, make it known that there are people who believe in social justice and continuously fight for equality. There is some comfort in knowing that there are communities of heroes who do believe in doing the right thing and that they can become a part of that community.

Next Steps

Understand the conversation

Ask if there's anything more you should know or how your child feels about racism or their experience with it. Ask if there's anything that could help deal with difficult situations dealing with racism (for example, maybe a peer or adult could have stepped in). This can help you understand what other actions or solutions you might need in the future.

Continue the conversation

Remember, racism and xenophobia can happen at any time. Help your child learn and deal with these feelings by continuing the conversation.

If your child is not confronted with racism, talk with them about the critical role they play in helping to stop and prevent it. Be clear with your child that they are to treat everyone with dignity. Further, they need to hold peers accountable for racist behavior by standing up to them in the moment, and/or by seeking help from an adult.

Explore more ways to communicate

Discover additional ways you can encourage your child to share how they're feeling.