A conversation: Psychologist explains how to talk to your kids about racism

ATLANTA — Understanding race and racism can be difficult as an adult, but what about children?

Channel 2 Action News anchor Jorge Estevez had a conversation with a psychologist who broke down the steps parents can take to start a conversation with their kids.

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Dr. Rosalyn Pitts Clark is an Atlanta clinical psychologist, a licensed and school certified psychologist, and owner of Pitts Psychological Service.

Here’s the conversation between Estevez and Clark:

Estevez: So, let’s talk with Dr. Rosalyn Pitts Clark. First of all, you’re saying it’s not just black families who need to have this conversation, it’s white families too, and any family.

Clark: Absolutely. All families need to have these conversations. Parents of color have these conversations more often and earlier than white parents, but white parents have to become comfortable having these race conversations with their children, because children as young as three understand race, and they actually learn to have a differential in terms of a hierarchy even at that young age.

Estevez: Let’s go ahead and talk about age since your brought it up. Seven-year-old conversation vs. a 17-year-old conversation. That’s gotta be way different.

Clark: Absolutely. So, you want to have a developmentally-appropriate conversation with your child. If your child is 7, start with fairness start with equality. If you give a 7-year-old juice, and you give the other one a little more, they’ll notice. They’ll say, “Hey, that’s not fair.” They understand concepts of fairness. Start there.

For your 17-year-old, ask him or her what you’ve seen. “How do you feel, what do you think? What do you think should be the next steps? Do you feel safe?” Those are the conversations we need have with the older children.

Estevez: My last question, what if you don’t know what to say? Regardless of how old your kid is.

Clark: Say that. “I don’t know. I’m Trying to figure it out.” But there’s some great resources out there. There are some amazing books for all development levels that looks at talking to children about racism and privilege, and for white parents, there’s a wonderful researcher, Dr. Ali McMichael, who talks specifically about how to talk to your white children about race and racism, in order to make sure that they become allies.

Estevez: Perfect. Dr. Rosalyn Pitts Clark thank you so much.