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Make Our Nation Kind: Give Parents the Tools They Need

With all that’s going on in the world right now, frank discussion of race and racism is more important than ever — particularly with children. As healthcare professionals, each of us is uniquely positioned to facilitate that conversation; to encourage parents to open that discussion, and to give them the tools they need to address the issue in a sensitive way.

Diversity Begins at Home

The AAP reminds us that racism is a core social determinant of health and a key factor in health disparities; that part of our job is to provide a culturally safe medical home staffed with culturally competent people, and that connecting families suffering stresses associated with racism, such as unsafe neighborhoods, poverty, or housing inequality with resources can also be a component of care.

Combating racism, however, requires a many-pronged approach, and instilling tolerance and openness to diversity during childhood is vital if we truly wish to address the issue.

We know that families, and the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of those within the family group, have a profound impact on children. Although parents may not realize it, openness to diversity, and cultural awareness begin in the home, and we must stress this point when the opportunity arises. With racial sensitivity, as with early childhood education, parents are children’s first teachers, and the lessons they learn may last a lifetime.

Give Parents the Tools They Need

Many parents may be unsure how to bring up the topic of race or to foster the discussion once begun. They may feel that it’s one of those Big Talks that require a solemn sit-down discussion, and this may make them uncomfortable. To that end, we can offer some child-friendly and age-appropriate tools to ease the situation.

EmbraceRace offers a simple 10-point tip sheet with simple things parents can do to explore the themes of race and racial bias in a non-threatening way. It’s available in both English and Spanish. They’re also a terrific starting point for finding diverse children’s books, with a resource page providing numerous book sources plus guidance on selecting appropriate books. Another organization, We Need Diverse Books, has also compiled resources from members of the community on race, equity, anti-racism, and inclusion.

And for those looking for diversity outside the covers of a book:

  • Ishababies — created by a SOAPM pediatrician — offers a line of award-winning multicultural soft dolls. Her tagline? “One world, all flavors.”
  • CNN/Sesame Street racism town hall – CNN’s Van Jones and Erica Hill partner with “Sesame Street” for Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism, a town hall for kids and families.

Please share these resources with your parents. Post them to social media accounts or websites, or consider sending out a special patient email showcasing them. It’s essential that parents open the race discussion, and these resources can help pave the way.

Meredith Cheryba Cheryba
meredith@officepracticum.com


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