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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Hate hurts

Regardless of your child's age, when hate hits home, it hurts. The events that unfolded in Los Angeles during the summer of 1999 put many Jewish parents in an awkward position with their children. How do you explain acts of hate to a child that young? Buford Furrow's shooting rampage at a Jewish day-care center left all of us-children and adults-feeling disgusted, angry, and vulnerable. How could someone have so much hate in his heart to target the innocent child for death? Offices at ADL were flooded with calls, not only because the incident seemed to reinforce the perception of a rising tide of violent anti-Semitism, but also because many parents felt ill-equipped to explain the incident to their children.

This is one time when you want to set aside some serious time to talk with your children. Generally we advise parents to ask questions first, finding out what your children know about the situation. Make sure they understand the facts. Immediately reassure them that they are safe. Next you want to explain to children that the world is not perfect and that there are people who hate for reasons of skin color, size, religion, ethnicity, and other reasons. Once they understand this, it is important to help them understand what is wrong with hatred.

Reassuring words go a long way to helping put your child at ease. In response to the Los Angeles shooting attack, one might say to a child, "He must have been hurting a lot to do that kind of bad thing." Or, "Mommies and daddies love their children and like to help keep them safe." Messages like these should not only be reinforced at home but also discussed in the classroom. Children should be encouraged to draw pictures about how they feel because, often, children are better at expressing themselves in pictures than in words. Sometimes it helps if they can take action to help ease the pain. Here a parent might suggest, without pressuring, "it must be really scary to experience something like this. Maybe your class can write letters to the kids out there (in Los Angeles)." Giving children an action can help them feel more empowered after a traumatic situation touches them.

Next: Teaching children begins by taking a look at ourselves

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