How Nannies Should Handle Tough Conversations with Kids?

In the last few months, protests against police brutality and systemic, persistent racism have been rising up across the nation. In addition to promoting legislative and individual change, these protests have gotten parents, educators, and childcare professionals thinking about how to raise children who treat everyone with equality. 

How Nannies Should Handle Tough Conversations with Kids?
[ image: by helena lopes ]

As a nanny, you have a lot of influence in the lives of the children you care for. Not only do you spend lots of time with them and help to shape their worldview, but you also serve as a role model. The kids you nanny for probably look up to you and listen to what you have to say and it’s important to encourage them and provide a positive outlook. 

Talking about race is difficult, whether you’re talking to a child or an adult. It’s difficult regardless of your own race. But it’s important to use your influence for good and to be honest with kids about how racism affects the world we live in. 

We need kind children who treat people with respect and dignity regardless of the color of their skin. Here are some tips for having these tough conversations with the kids in your care. 

Speak on Both the Value & Importance of Diversity 

As humans, we tend to default toward seeking out people who are like us. It’s important to instill in children that our differences are what make us stronger. The value of diversity has been proven across all areas of society, from diverse businesses to diverse schools and diverse healthcare environments.

 When you speak with the children in your care about the differences between people, celebrate those differences. Explain the value of diversity and talk about how different perspectives make us stronger, better, and more creative. You can incorporate this into different conversations, projects, and daily activities.

Don’t Hide Away From Speaking on Race-Based Events & Their Impact 

It can be tempting to avoid talking to kids about race-based events for a number of reasons. These incidents are upsetting to talk about to begin with. On top of that, it’s very natural to want to shield children from the ugliness of the world, or to avoid getting into a difficult conversation. Many people also feel that young children aren’t old enough to learn about inequality. 

But while it might seem like not talking about events involving racism is the best choice as a nanny, it may actually be more harmful to stay silent. Children can understand complex topics, and by avoiding these conversations, you’re reinforcing the idea that race isn’t something we talk about. That can lead to a lack of understanding and empathy in the long term.

If the children you nanny for ask questions, answer them. Be honest about the facts of racism and what’s going on in the world. There are many resources available to help you learn how best to approach these conversations if you’re uncertain about how to talk with young children about events fueled by racism, hate, and violence. 

Be Sure to Teach Kids About Inclusion and Equity, Too! 

The problem with phrases like “I don’t see color” and “all lives matter” is that it ignores the fact that systemic racism persists to this day. Instead of pretending that differences between people don’t exist, it’s important to teach children how to celebrate those differences and give people the support they need based on their own specific circumstances. This is the difference between equality and equity: equality is treating everyone the same, while equity recognizes that some people need extra assistance to have equal opportunities. 

It’s important to teach kids about why inclusion and equity are important in the fight against systemic racism. An environment can be integrated, but not inclusive and welcoming, a concept that kids should learn from an early age. Talking about these concepts early on will help kids understand that they might need to reach out specifically to students who might be excluded for the color of their skin or their gender identity. 

Don’t Just Say “Equality.” Let Your Actions Follow Through

You’re a role model as a nanny, and the kids you care for look up to you for guidance on how to behave and interact with the world. It’s not enough to tell them that we need to treat people with equal dignity and respect. You have to show them, too. 

Let your actions speak as loud (or louder) than your words. You can’t speak about equality and then treat people differently based on the color of their skin. Commit to continually improving your actions and use the opportunity to teach the next generation about kindness, inclusiveness, and respect. 

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