Race, Class and Culture: When and How to Talk to Your Kids

Our follow-up conversation with April Dinwoodie.

Brian: Hi, it's Brian of Gays With Kids and I'm back here with our special guest April Dinwoodie of the Donaldson Adoption Institute. So April, now we're into the nitty gritty: How do we talk and how do we broach the subject with our toddlers and babies, at what age should we start bringing up race, class and culture?

April: There is no perfect science to this, I would say if you think about how we have been talking about the parents' responsibility to understand their biases about all those things, race, class and culture, and where their comfort or discomfort levels are. I feel like when you start there and you do your education right as a grown-up, and you talk with your partner with your friends, with your relatives, with your network, with your community as a natural way of talking and interacting.

When you talk about race, class and culture with a little bit of ease, and it's never going to be easy to do at any age with your kids, it's like talking about sex. It's never easy to talk about it, but there is a way to be open about the conversation and it's not “We're going to talk about race, class and culture now, do you want to talk about that?" And the answer is going to be generally “No!" But when you're like, “Oh my gosh, did you see that thing that was on T.V?" Or even some children's program, and we can come back about and talk about specific books and programs that I feel are really good and we can put together something.

I think the best thing you can do is make the conversations natural and organic, and include your kids like you would in any other conversation. It does have to be purposeful and it does have to be strategic, but it will become more of how you operate and less about sitting down and making a family meeting to talk about it.

So the first place it getting comfortable with discussions. Feel confident that you as a not a person of color, you have every right, you have every authority, you are a parent, you need to talk about race, class and culture. And you have to be comfortable doing that, and you're not going to have all the answers. So I'm sure you have people around you that look like your kid, make sure that they're truly apart of your family.

In terms of a kid's age, some kids are really advanced and get it; they'll be starting to ask you. I would wait for that. I would make sure you are broaching some of these topics. There are some shows on Nickelodeon with different kids, the different ways they look. There is PBS shows that show different types of family. Todd Par, an author, has a great book, several great books. So there are resources out there but the first thing is starting with you and your family's network, and making sure that you're all comfortable and then it gets easier to talk with your kids at any age.

Brian: I would presume it's basically the same as how we talk about gender identity and how we talk about sexual orientation. Since day 1, my kids know, my kids are now 7 and 5, they know that their family has two gay dads. So I presume that it's really the same, the same way we integrate those conversations, to do the same with race and culture.

April: That's right, and it's okay to talk about people looking different. Kids are seeing what they see. There is a great story about a mom and her kid at a grocery store. She is a psychologist, she's really smart. She's white and her kids is white. And her kid sees a black man. So the little girl puts up her hand and says, “Mommy, Mommy, that guy's black!" The Mom quickly starts to run away and then stops and thinks, “Yeah, he is black and I shouldn't feel weird and my kid shouldn't feel weird that she's pointing out that he's black. He was a handsome man, and he had a great big smile." So I think we're more weirded-out by the differences as grown-ups and that could be completely fair based on our experiences.

So I think acknowledging that difference and being aware and getting down into it. It is similar to gender identity. We've just done some research at Modern Adoption Families study and it is something I will share with you in more detail. We're about to post a policy brief about it, which talks about different types of family structures and how they address openness in adoption and certain things. I'll keep you posted on that.

Brian: Oh good, looking forward to it. So April I'd say that in an upcoming video we would love to get from you real quick and easy tips on helping to get those conversations started. But, you have to come back for our next video!

Watch the next video: Don't Let Your Kid Be the Only Adopted One Around.

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