My 5 year old DD told us that she does not like dark skin people because she is not one. We live in a pretty white state, but do have a good amount of friends of all different races. She has been saying this a lot lately and not wanting to hang out with her dark skinned friends. How do we handle this? DH and I are both from bigger cities that our very diverse and this has not ever been an issue on our lives. We feel so sad about it!
Could she have heard this from someone else, and be "testing" the concept in her own little world?
It is normal for little children to think or say odd things about race and other differences. It's normal for them to notice differences and differentiate people by how they look.
Respond to her comments with truth. Skin color is not something we separate ourselves by. Skin color varies because of melanin--everybody has it, some people have more than others. Tell your daughter she has melanin too, and point out that her skin is actually shades of brown as well. What makes us people has nothing to do with which shade of brown we are. Just keep telling her, and modeling it in your own lives.
I think it's normal for kids to like people who look/act like themselves. I don't know if it's really about race, or about having friends who look similar to them.
I grew up in extremely diverse areas my whole life. So, I never had any issues seeing dark kids and light kids all the same way.
But, I live in a town right now where there are very few blonde haired fair skin people, and in my daycare, I just got a brother sister duo with very light skin, red hair, and light blue eyes. I've had a few daycare kids ask why they look like that. They mean it very innocently, but someone says something at least once a week. They pet the baby's head and look at her eyes all the time because they are just kinda amazed.
I don't feel like it's a real problem, but I need to get them to quit mentioning it in front of them. (ideas are welcome here)
I think I might tell her that she can't say those things in front of her dark skinned friends. She can talk to you about it, but not in front of other kids. It's hurtful, and while you understand her feelings, it's not really ok to let anybody else know.
does she have any good dark skinned friends.
is she v. social and enjoys other kids and even strangers?
i would try to model that in a different way, instead of directly talking to her. choose a real life example.
so what i would do is say stop talking to a friend with a red car, or a friend who lives in the oppostie of where you guys live. 'nah i am not talking to vicky. she is not like us. she drives a red car instead of a blue car like us. or something where she can see that cutting out people based on the colour of their skin is not really worth it. or even that since you are different, you shouldnt mix.
Thanks for all the responses! I do think it's fairly normal for kids to sort of be attracted to people who look like them, but still I want to nip this in the bud! She does have several good friends that are mixed race and have dark skin and pointed that out to her and she said she likes only them. She is the only blonde one in the family so we joked with her that since she has different hair that maybe she needed to find a new family (we saw the wheels turning there). I also got brown eggs and white eggs and we cracked them and saw that they were the same on the inside--just like people. Hadn't thought about bringing melanin into the conversation, but great idea!
My kids have never shown racial preference, but when they've brought it up, we've talked about it in the same terms as any other physical characteristic. So if they ask why someone has dark skin, I've just explained that it's because their parents have dark skin. Just like my kids all have blue eyes because my husband and I both have blue eyes. We've talked about the possibilities when one parent has blue eyes and one has brown, or when one has dark skin and one has light skin, or one has blonde hair and another has black hair, et cetera. If I heard my kids (at 4.5 and 6, right now) say something like, "I don't want to play with kids with dark skin," I would try not to overreact, but instead treat it like they had just said, "I don't want to play with kids with blue eyes,"--a silly statement by a child who has no idea how "loaded" that statement may sound.
If I had the impression that my kid was echoing a sentiment he had heard/witnessed elsewhere, I might address it a little more directly. Like, if I knew he had a racist grandparent who would have discouraged him from hanging out with a neighbor kid based on race, or whatever--I would address it directly with both my kid *and* the grandparent. But if it seems like relatively innocent kid-stuff, I would just point out why I thought that was a silly stance to take and not turn it into too big an issue unless it escalated into something more.
Here's my only experience, a couple years ago I had a white haired, blue eyed, Latvian child in my care. The first time my DS met him he was in awe. DS whispered to me " He's white. This is my first white person" (not in a mean way mind you)
All along he thought we were beige. (we're Scottish/French 'white' but my kids grew up around a lot of different races - except white apparently )
As for your DD, can you start visiting places where there would be a more diverse group of kids and parents around? Different playgrounds, library groups etc? Maybe pick up some children's books with a good mix of races depicted? Point out some neat things about the children. "Like "look at her beautiful dress" or "
look how good that little guy is on his bike!" that sort of thing. Dolls are great too : )