700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

How to Teach Your Kids to Be Anti-Racist

Dec 21, 2021
mother reading a book to her two children

Racism is real and present in our society. Recognizing and understanding it, however, is not always easy or simple. Before you educate your children about anti-racism, ask yourself…

“Where am I on my anti-racism journey?”

  • Am I aware of my unconscious biases, stereotypes and prejudices towards individuals who do not look or think like me?
  • How diverse is my network of friends?
  • Do I feel comfortable talking about racism?
  • Am I able to challenge my family, friends, and colleagues when they make racist statements?

Becoming anti-racist is a continual learning process. It can create discomfort, but people (including children) have died because of racism, racist policies, and racist institutions. We agree with the excellent information our colleagues Dr. Whitney Raglin-Bignall, Dr. Ariana Hoet, and Dr. Jacquelyn Doxie King provided in “How to Talk to Your Kids About Racism.” We know our children begin recognizing differences in race and treatment of people based on race at an early age:

  • Children begin to understand racial stereotypes around ages 2-5 years
  • Racial prejudice can develop in the early school-age period (ages 5-8 years)
  • An ideal time to speak with children about prejudice is the school-age period (ages 9-12 years)

We can start by teaching children two key concepts that build the foundation for anti-racism:

  • “The Golden Rule”: Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • Fairness: Actions and consequences that are right and honorable; illustrates the difference between EQUAL and EQUITABLE

Making sure our children learn respect, fairness, and kindness for everyone, regardless of their appearance, ability or background, helps them become anti-racist. 

Infants and Toddlers

Children notice differences in physical features like skin color first, so it is very important to expose them to diverse groups of people as much as possible. Daycares, activity classes, playdates, and books can help introduce them to people from different cultures. It can also enhance their social-emotional development.


Your children may ask questions about differences they observe.  As you talk to them, positively celebrate diversity and differences in people. The American Psychological Association provides resources to help with these conversations and find age-appropriate content for children. Additionally, ask for and ensure exposure to books with diverse characters and concepts. In selecting these books, support authors that share authentic backgrounds with their characters and concepts.

School-aged Children

Continue using books that highlight diversity, equity, inclusion, and also address racism and discrimination. Identify TV programs, social media sites and other programs your children enjoy. What types of experiences and examples do they provide in helping children navigate fairness and honor “The Golden Rule?” Support programming that builds their cultural knowledge.


Begin incorporating news from various media platforms to begin discussions about the nuances of issues related to racism and xenophobia. It may feel uncomfortable, particularly with the wide range of opinions offered through media and news platforms. However, it is critical to help adolescents differentiate credible facts from misinformation. They can also learn to “agree to disagree” in a respectful and fair manner. Offer guidance and support as they navigate their understanding of these concepts at a deeper level with their peers and in their classes. 

Teaching anti-racism is an active part of parenting and supporting your child’s development. Never forget that all children and adolescents observe how you behave and interact, even when you are not directly talking to or teaching or parenting them. They learn how to respond and understand different situations that relate to race and racism by watching us. You must model that commitment to continual learning about active anti-racist practice too.

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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Jennifer Walton, MD, MPH, FAAP
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Jennifer Walton, MD, MPH, FAAP, is an assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University, and an attending physician in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Valencia Walker
Valencia Walker, MD, MPH, FAAP

Valencia P. Walker, MD, MPH, FAAP, is Associate Chief Diversity and Health Equity Officer at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.