Parenting In Focus: Introducing racial issues to young children

  • Thursday, April 22, 2021 2:28pm
  • Life

“Sesame Street” has been around for about five decades helping children deal with tough issues from death, autism, foster care, and now racial issues. They have introduced a new 5-year-old Black Muppet and his father to help families learn how to talk together about race and racism.

Certainly most all of us recognize the need for all families to discuss race whether they are white, Black or brown. But how we do that is frequently an issue. This is one of the strong points of “Sesame Street.” The show not only helps children learn how to deal with these issues but it also helps parents learn how to handle them.

It is especially important to introduce issues like this at an early age. This early childhood show began by focusing on racism for 3-year-olds. “Sesame Street” is launching a resource called the ABCs of Racial Literacy which will focus on providing children, parents and educators the tools and language to talk openly about race and racism.

“Sesame Street” plans to model conversations between a Black child. Wesley, and a parent, Elijah, since it believes strongly in the need for these kinds of conversations. These shows hope to open up potential conversations but fit the kinds of questions children may be asking.

This is a time that we as parents and as caregivers need to focus more attention on racial issues and problems. This is not just an issue for non-white parents. This is an issue for white parents and one they need to devote some time to if they expect to make a difference with their children.

A study done by Sesame Workshop points out that only 26 percent of white parents said they were likely to discuss race with their young children while 61 percent of Black parents said they would discuss race with their young children.

It is clear that white families need to pay attention to ways to include these discussion within their families.

Many white parents feel this is not an issue for them, but that is not true. We all have racial issues that need to be discussed openly within our families. These topics need to be approached from the child’s earliest years. You may need to watch “Sesame Street” with a focus on season 53. They are also going to focus their new characters, Wes and Elijah, on focusing on racial justice for 2-year-olds and for 6- to 8-year-olds.

Here is a way to get a good start on learning how to discuss racial issues with your children from this show. If you have not been doing it, it is time to start. We all have a responsibility to help eliminate the racial issues in our society for the good of all of us.

The recent article about racial issues in Time places emphasis on the importance of talking about these issues. “Even though it does ruffle some feathers, it’s for the right reasons, because sometimes we have to ruffle feathers in order to be better than we were yesterday (Lang, C., “New Neighbors,” Time, March 29-April 5, 2021).

So here is a way to begin to learn how to discuss race with your young child. Open yourself up to ways to learn about and discuss these issues with all ages of children.

These are feathers that need to be ruffled a bit. Take the first step.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to or call 360-681-2250.

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