For better or for worse, my husband and I have a rule when it comes to our kid: We decided a long time ago to be very, very honest with him about anything and everything.
That doesn’t mean that we give him every sordid detail about a topic unprompted, but if he asks a question, we’ll give him the most detailed answer we have available to us in a way that helps him digest it. The reason we’re so open is that we both believe that at home with us, in an environment where he feels supported and safe and he’s with people who love him unconditionally, is the ideal place to have conversations that might feel hard or scary.
This rule also applies to the information we expose him to in general. It makes some people mad, but I don’t personally believe that a child is ever “too young” to know about something that’s hard to talk about, just that sometimes the way you talk about it is what needs to change.
I’m bringing all of this up because it’s been really important to us that our child is a full citizen of this world we all live in. Among other things, that means that we really make sure that he is introduced to a lot of history and information that extends outside his cultural and ancestral makeup. So he knows a lot about Hawaiian culture and loves his Hawaiian family, and he is also steeped in relationships with plenty of white people and knows tons of European history. We have also lived in a whole bunch of places in the US, in all kinds of neighborhoods and homes, and he has had real friendships with kids from all kinds of cultural and ancestral backgrounds. We’re lucky that way — we’ve almost always lived in cities that are enriched by their diverse populations.
Because it’s so easy for many white people and families to live their entire lives without forming real relationships with people who aren’t white, we really want to also make sure that our son knows the stories of various groups of people who live in the United States and in the world in general. That is obviously a huge task, and it’s a lifelong goal — it’s the kind of thing that none of us will ever stop learning about. But since we are American, and particularly since we are from the southern United States, it felt natural to begin this journey by really exploring black history in America and what it really means.
We aren’t black, and we knew that if we wanted to have conversations about black history, we would need to put in a tremendous amount of care and research. We also knew that we would need to step back and let the voices of black people ring louder than our own. Luckily, we have been aided by the wealth of knowledge and tools available, as well as many sweet friends who have no problem telling us when we’re wrong (and will even tell us when we’re on the right track).
I am by no means an expert, but here’s what has worked for us in our son’s 10 years so far, as well as other things you might want to keep in mind when having these conversations with your own kids.