Talking to your Child about Hatred and Prejudice

Explaining violent incidents
Hate is learned and can be "unlearned"
Talking to children about diversity: Preschool years
Talking to children about diversity: Onset of formal education
Hate hurts
Teaching children begins by taking a look at ourselves
An exercise for teaching diversity

Related ADL Articles:
Discussing Hate & Violence with Your Children
What to Tell Your Child About Prejudice
in English or
en Español

From The ADL Material Resource Center:
Books for Teaching About Diversity


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Explaining Violent Incidents

Days after the Columbine shootings, my 4-year-old son became curious about all of the activity in our house. My husband and I had tried to keep him distracted from the news coverage of the horrific shootings and the ringing telephone. It became quite difficult after I began making TV appearances as an educator with expertise in talking to children about hate. It was unavoidable keeping the news from him. My son wanted "to see mommy on TV," so I arranged for him to watch one of these shows.

At first my son was mad at me because I didn't wave at him. He will be fine, I thought. Two days later as we were getting ready for school and work, he started to cry and told me he couldn't go to school. What ultimately came out was that there were "bad men at school and they have guns:"

From the earliest years of development children are prone to make things connect and to internalize in ways that we adults find extraordinary. Like so many other parents my experience and years of training and working with children failed me at that moment. What can you tell a 4year-old child about hate and discrimination? Along with some of the other difficult issues we must negotiate as caring parents, this particular subject can be as forbidding as explaining a divorce. With Columbine and other violent incidents in schools across the country, thousands of parents have reached out to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and similar organizations seeking a way to explain these events to their children. Basically, parents want to know how do we teach our children not to hate, how do we teach our children to stand up to hate, and how do we help our children when they are victims of hate? At ADL, we know that while we have not yet found a cure for hate, the best antidote is education.

Next: Hate is learned and can be "unlearned"


This article originally appeared in Our Children, the National PTA Magazine, February 2000 Reprinted by permission

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