Talking to Children about Racial Bias

By Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP

Given the tragic and racially-charged current events, many parents are wrestling with their own feelings, the hopes they have for their children, and the difficulty of helping those children thrive in a world full of racial bias.

Parents may better face today’s challenges with an understanding of how racial bias works in children, as well as strategies to help them deal with and react to racial differences.

How Do Children Learn Racial Bias?

Children learn about racial differences and racial bias from an early age and learn from their first teachers — their parents — how to deal with and react to these differences.

The process of learning racial bias is a lot like learning a new language (e.g., a child raised bilingual vs. a child who starts learning Spanish in junior high). Biology determines a critical early learning period as well as a later window where learning is much harder.

  • As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
  • By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
  • By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.

But like language immersion, children exposed to society will gain fluency in racial bias even if their parents do nothing.

Strategies to Help Children Deal with Racial Bias

There are three strategies that parents can use to help their children deal with racial bias:

  • Talk to your children and acknowledge that racial differences and bias exist.
  • Confront your own bias and model how you want your children to respond to others who may be different than them.
  • Encourage your children to challenge racial stereotypes and racial bias by being kind and compassionate when interacting with people of all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.

How Parents Can Confront Their Own Racial Bias

Parents must first confront their own biases, so that their example is consistent with messages of racial and ethnic tolerance.

  • Be a role model. Identify and correct your own racially biased thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you want your children to believe what you preach, you have to exhibit those behaviors as well. Your everyday comments and actions will say more than anything else.
  • Have a wide, culturally diverse social network. Encourage your children to have diverse circles of friends, as well. This lends itself to engagement in multicultural activities and experiences.
  • Travel and expose your children to other communities. This can help them understand that there is diversity in the world that might not be represented in the community that you live in.
  • Do not reverse stereotype police officers and other groups or talk about law enforcement in a negative way.
  • Get involved in your child’s school, your place of worship, and politics. Parents who are involved in this way are better able to advocate for fair treatment of racially marginalized groups and raise awareness of race issues in other groups.

Tips for Talking About Racial Differences & Racism

Talking about race is not racist. It’s OK—and important. From a young age, children may have questions about racial differences and parents must be prepared to answer them. But, it’s important to keep your child’s developmental readiness in mind.

  • For preschoolers: At this age, your child may begin to notice and point out differences in the people around you (i.e., at the grocery store, at the park, etc.). If your child asks about someone’s skin tone, you might say, “Isn’t it wonderful that we are all so different!” You can even hold your arm against theirs to show the differences in skin tones in your family.
  • For gradeschoolers: This is the age that is important to have open talks with your child about race, diversity, and racism. Discussing these topics will help your child see you as a trusted source of information on the topic, and he or she can come to you with any questions. Point out stereotypes and racial bias in media and books such as villains or “bad guys” in movies.
  • If your child makes comments or asks you questions about race based on school incidents or something they read or watched: Further the discussion with questions such as, “How do you feel about that?” and “Why do you think that?” This is also helpful if your child heard something insensitive or if your child experienced racial bias themselves. Before responding to his or her statement or question, figure out where it came from and what it means from his or her perspective.

These conversations begin to lay the groundwork for your child to accept and respect everyone’s differences and similarities. As children mature, the answers to questions will become more complex. These are moments to learn what your child understands or is struggling to understand about racial bias.

Remember:

To create a culture of inclusiveness, we all must look at and acknowledge our biases, so we can do something about the ones that are unfair or cause harm to others—like racial bias. Understanding the way people feel about and behave toward those outside their own group can help communities heal after a tragedy, as well as prevent future ones.


Author: Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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Protecting & Preparing Children for Life’s Lessons

You can both protect your child from life’s dangers and prepare him or her for life’s challenges.

In this video, pediatrician and adolescent specialist Ken Ginsburg, MD, FAAP discusses boundaries, how to “get out of the way,” and how to guide your child to thinking through situations wisely and safely.


Source: Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2015 Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, and Martha M. Jablow) The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

Energy Out: Daily Physical Activity Recommendations

​Physical activity in children and adolescents improves strength and endurance, builds healthy bones and lean muscles, develops ​ motor skills and coordination, reduces fat, and promotes emotional well-being (reduces feelings of depression and anxiety). Activities should be appropriate for their age and fun, as well as offer variety.

The daily recommendation for physical activity for children 6 years and older is at least 60 minutes per day. Active play is the best exercise for younger children.

The types of physical activity should be moderate to vigorous. Vigorous activity is activity that makes you breathe hard and sweat. During vigorous activity, it would be difficult to have a talk with someone. Some activities, such as bicycling, can be of moderate or vigorous intensity, depending upon level of effort.

The 60 minutes does not need to be done all at once. Physical activity can be broken down into shorter blocks of time. For example, 20 minutes walking to and from school, 10 minutes jumping rope, and 30 minutes at the playground all add up to 60 minutes of physical activity. If your child is not active, start from where you are and build from there.

Here are some types of sports and activities for children and teens (and parents, too!)

Aerobic Exercises

  • Use body’s large muscle groups
  • Strengthen the heart and lungs
  • Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises include: brisk walking, Bicycle riding, dancing,hiking, rollerblading, skateboarding, martial arts such as karate or tae kwon do (can be vigorous too)
  • Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include: basketball, bicycle riding, games such as tag, ice or field hockey, jumping rope, martial arts, running, soccer, swimming, tennis

Muscle-Strengthening (or Resistance) Activities

  • Work major muscle groups of the body (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder, arms)
  • Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include: games such as tug-of-war, push-ups or modified push-ups (with knees on the floor), resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands, rope or tree climbing, sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches), swinging on playground equipment/bars

Bone-Strengthening (Weight-Bearing) Activities

  • Tone and build muscles and bone mass
  • Can be aerobic exercises and muscle-strengthening activities
  • Examples of bone-strengthening activities include: basketball, hopping, skipping, jumping, gymnastics, jumping rope, running, tennis, volleyball, push-ups, resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands

About Strength Training

Strength training(or resistance training) uses a resistance to increase an individual’s ability to exert force. It involves the use of weight machines, free weights, bands or tubing, or the individual’s own body weight. This is not the same as Olympic lifting, power lifting, or body building, which are not recommended for children. Check with your child’s doctor before starting any strength training exercises.


Source: Energy In Energy Out: Finding the Right Balance for Your Children (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Children & Teens

The start of the new year is a great time to help your children focus on forming good habits. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides the following list of ideas for you to talk to your children about trying, depending on their age. ​

Preschoolers

  • I will try hard to clean up​ my toys by putting them where they belong.
  • I will let my parents help me brush my teeth twice a day.
  • I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I will learn how to help clear the table when I am done eating.
  • I will be friendly to all animals. I will learn how to ask the owners if I can pet their animal first.
  • I will do my best to be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help or am scared.

Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk​ and water most days. Soda and fruit drinks are only for special times.
  • I will take care of my skin by putting on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to remember to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike, scooter or skateboard.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll try to be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends by asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will tell an adult about bullying that I see or hear about to do what I can to help keep school safe for everyone.
  • I will keep my personal info safe and not share my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise that I’ll do my best to follow our household rules for videogames and internet use.

Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day. I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will do my best to take care of my body through fun physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • When I have some down time for media, I will try to choose educational, high-quality nonn-violent TV shows and video games that I enjoy. I will spend only one to two hours each day – at the most – on these activities. I promise to respect out household rules for videogames and internet use.
  • I will do what I can to help out in my community. I will give some of my time to help others, working with community groups or others that help people in need. These activities will make me feel better about myself and my community.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or talking about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will look for a trusted adultso that we can attempt to find a way to help.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date. I will treat the other person with respect and not force them to do something they do not want to do. I will not use violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco-cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. I will also avoid the use of e-cigarettes.
  • I agree not to use a cell phone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Child

For you to care for your child properly, you need to be OK.​ In this video, pediatrician and adolescent specialist Ken Ginsburg, MD, FAAP discusses that the greatest gifts you can give your child are to live a balanced life and to show that when life offers us challenges, we take active steps to get back on track.​


Source: Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2015 Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, and Martha M. Jablow). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Holiday Food Safety Tips

Whether it is holiday cookies, perogies, roast goose, latke or tamales, foods are an important ingredient of holiday celebrations. Teaching children to cook your family’s recipes can impart ethnic identity and culture, and offers a sense of accomplishment for young chefs. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some tips to keep holiday feasting fun and healthy:

  • When preparing food for a holiday celebration, follow food safety guidelines. Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.
  • While you’re teaching your children family recipes, also teach them about good food safety. Wash your hands frequently, and make sure children do the same.
  • If you offer your helper a taste, be sure to wash the spoon before putting it back into the food.
  • Make sure that taste doesn’t include raw eggs or other ingredients that should be cooked before be eaten.
  • During preparations for a party, the refrigerator and freezer can become crowded with with sweets, roasts and other goodies, but don’t let these become breeding grounds for bacteria. Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate, and use separate utensils when preparing them.
  • Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
  • Keep hot food and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child’s exploring hands. Be sure that young children cannot access microwave ovens. Turn pot handles toward the side or back of the stove.
  • Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • After a holiday party, clean up immediately. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


10 Non-Tech Holiday Gift Ideas to Promote Kids’ Language & Learning

​​​Children of all ages are filling their holiday wish list with things like tablets, cell phones, wearables, headphones, and other tech-related gifts. But it’s important to find a balance and ensure that today’s connected kids ha​ve some quality off-line time, too. The holidays are a great time to get back to some of the basics in childhood play that foster communication and social interaction. Here are some ideas for a low-tech holiday gift list:

Traditional toys remain superior to electronic toys for children’s language development. For example, when toys talk, parents talk less—and subsequently, kids vocalize less. Blocks, dolls, musical instruments, cars, trains, shape-sorters, and other low-tech toys get kids—and parents—talking, singing, playing, and interacting. These all help build foundational communication skills.

Books always make excellent presents, and sharing the joy of reading is a lifelong gift.

  • ​For infants and toddlers: Books with textures inviting touch are ideal, as are colorful board and picture books.
  • For children learning how to read: Give books appropriate to their skill level to facilitate emerging literacy.
  • For older children: Find engaging chapter books and book series. Family members can take turns reading chapters aloud. This may be the start of a family book club.

​​Board, card, and conversation-based question games are great to enjoy and play as a family. They get everyone talking and laughing and build some great memories. There are games for all age ranges. And what better time of year than winter to begin family game nights for building conversation, connections—and fun!

Costumes and other dress-up accessories allow kids to use their imaginations and foster creativity. Children’s language skills expand as they make up dialogues, tell stories, sing, and take turns.

Building toys, blocks,​ and crafts make for some fun indoor activities to occupy kids on cold days. They also help hone fine motor skills for all ages. For young children, motor skills are closely linked to language development.

Outdoor toys such as balls, sleds, jump ropes, and yard games encourage running, jumping, sports and other active play. Physical activity and movement prime children for learning.

Puzzles — ranging from basic options for young children to complex types the whole family can attempt as a team—spur conversation while building analytical, problem-solving and other skills.

Cooking supplies work as fun gifts for children of almost any age. Involving young kids in making and trying new foods offers a wealth of opportunity for conversation and language-building, including likes and dislikes, tastes, textures, and more. For older kids, cooking together sets the scene for family bonding. Following recipes also helps improve reading and comprehension skills, planning, organization, sequencing, and following directions.

Crayons, colored pencils, coloring books and other writing supplies are a childhood staple, and they help children build fine-motor skills. Coloring also helps young children build their vocabulary and learn their color names.

​Tickets to child-friendly shows, sporting events, or other performances are great gifts, as they allow parents and children to enjoy special activities together. These outings promote family interaction, conversation, and bonding. In addition, memberships to local zoos, museums or aquariums make great gifts for entire families to enjoy!

Of course, technology gifts will likely remain on your child’s shopping lists year after year—the reality of growing up in today’s world. Parents can help their children balance their online and off-line lives. If you do give your child a technology-related gift, use it as an opportunity to lay out some ground rules and make a family media plan.


Copyright ©2016 American Academy of Pediatrics and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association/ASHA Leader. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Gratitude As A Life Skill

Check out this video from Go Strengths: Nik receives an assignment in school to write down all the things he is grateful for in his Gratitude Journal. He has a hard time thinking of things to be grateful for, but when his friend Sam gives him a pair of GoGoggles!, he sees the world in a different way. He realizes there are many things around him that are part of his everyday life for which he can be grateful.

Go Strengths is an online resources for parents, teachers and mental health professionals that focused on eight skills for wwell-being: goal-setting, problem-solving, resilience, optimistic thinking, character strengths, emotional intelligence, social connections, and self-confidence. Click here to learn more.

Helping Children Handle Stress

How can we help our children handle the stresses of everyday life?

In middle childhood, pressures may come from a number of sources-from within the child herself, as well as from parents, teachers, peers and the larger society in which the child lives. Pressure can take many forms that challenge children and to which they must respond and, often, adapt. Whether these are events of lasting consequence like the divorce of their parents, or merely a minor hassle like losing their homework, these demands or stresses are a part of children’s daily existence.

Children welcome some events and are able to adapt to them with relative ease. They perceive other events as threats to their own or the family’s daily routines or general sense of well-being, and these stresses are more troublesome. Most stress faced by children is in the middle, neither welcomed nor seriously harmful, but rather a part of accomplishing the tasks of childhood and learning about themselves.

Youngsters may also worry about making friends, succeeding in school, combating peer pressure or overcoming a physical impairment. Whatever its form, if stress is too intense or long-lasting, it can sometimes take a toll on children. Clusters of stressful events seem to predispose children to illness. Major events, especially those that forever change a child’s family, like the death of a parent, can have lasting effects on children’s psychological health and well-being. Minor daily stresses can also have consequences. They can contribute to loss of sleep or appetite. Children may become angry or irritable or their school grades may suffer. Their behavior and their willingness to cooperate may change.

How different children cope with stress

Children’s temperaments vary and thus they are quite different in their ability to cope with stress and daily hassles. Some are easygoing by nature and adjust easily to events and new situations. Others are thrown off balance by changes in their lives. All children improve in their ability to handle stress if they previously have succeeded in managing challenges and if they feel they have the ability and the emotional support of family and friends. Children who have a clear sense of personal competence, and who feel loved and supported, generally do well.

Certainly, a child’s age and development will help determine how stressful a given situation may be. Changing teachers at midyear may be a major event for a child in the first grade and merely an annoyance for a sixth-grader. Being short may be a minor issue for a 5- or 6-year-old boy but a source of daily embarrassment for an adolescent. How a child perceives and responds to stress depends in part on development, in part on experience, and in part on a child’s individual temperament.

Ironically, many parents believe that their school-age children are unaware of the stresses around them and are somehow immune to them. After all, their children not only have all their basic needs met, but perhaps they also have a roomful of toys, friends to share them with, plenty of playtime, and a full schedule of extracurricular activities.

Yet children are very sensitive to the changes around them, especially to the feelings and reactions of their parents, even if those feelings are not communicated directly in words. If a parent loses a job, children will have to adjust to their family’s financial crisis; they must deal not only with the obvious family budgetary changes but also with the changes in their parents’ emotional states. Children may have to cope with a bully on the playground, a move to a new neighborhood, a parent’s serious illness or the disappointment of a poor sports performance. They might feel a constant, nagging pressure to dress the “right” way, or to achieve the high grades that can put them on the fast track toward the “right” college.

Stress and today’s middle-years child

Some psychologists believe that today’s middle-years youngsters actually are faced with more stress than the children of previous generations were and have fewer social supports available. The change in family structure from the large, supportive, extended families (including both parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents) of previous generations, to the present high incidence of divorced families, single-parent families and stepfamilies has drastically altered the experience of childhood. Millions of youngsters must adjust to such changes.

Even in intact and stable families, the growing number of households with two working parents often forces children to spend more time in after-school programs or at home alone. For some children this loss of time with their parents is quite stressful. So, too, is the responsibility for caring for themselves and the family home and sometimes for overseeing a younger sibling after school.

Many children and their families are stressed by the multiple activities that fill children’s “free time.” Overscheduled children with inadequate “down time” can become exhausted.

Today’s children are also being raised in an era in which they are exposed to violence and peer pressure about sexual activity and drug use and are warned to be cautious about kidnapping, sexual abuse and other crimes. This sense that they are living in an unsafe world is a constant source of stress for some children. In short, today’s youngsters are regularly confronted with challenges to their coping skills and often are expected to grow up too fast.

Good and bad stress

Not all stress is bad. Moderate amounts of pressure imposed by a teacher or a coach, for example, can motivate a child to keep her grades up in school or to participate more fully in athletic activities. Successfully managing stressful situations or events enhances a child’s ability to cope in the future.

When the stress is continuous or particularly intense, it takes a toll on both the psyche and the body. Sudden stressful events will accelerate your child’s breathing and heartbeat, constrict her blood vessels, increase her blood pressure and muscle tension and perhaps cause stomach upset and headaches. As stress persists, she might be more susceptible to illness and experience fatigue, nightmares, teeth-grinding, insomnia, tantrums, depression and school failure.


Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.