A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

Race, Identity and Kids’ Conversations


NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire)—It’s one tough subject that parents may be shying away from, and it’s not the birds and the bees. A new study by the researchers at Sesame Street indicates that most parents may not be having a conversation about race, class, or ethnicity with their kids—the factors that make up their social identities.

Eleven-year old Rory Breaker and his little brother Auggie live in a multicultural neighborhood in New York City. When you ask about his family, Rory says he acts most like his mom, Kate, a theater director.

“We like to do a lot of the same things,” Rory told Ivanhoe.

But looks more like his dad, Daniel, a Broadway actor.

“I think we have the same nose,” detailed Rory.

Diversity is part of the fabric of Rory’s family. His parents talk about it. But is that the exception rather than the rule? Tanya Haider is the Executive Vice President of Strategy for Sesame Workshop. Sesame and NORC at the University of Chicago conducted a nationwide survey of more than 6,000 parents and found 68 percent of the respondents felt race has some impact on a child’s ability to succeed. But 60 percent rarely discuss race or ethnicity or social class, even though kids notice differences at a very early age.

Haider detailed, “On the playground, ‘Hey mom, why is that person’s skin color different than mine? Why is that lady wearing something on her head?’ We tend to shush them up. We get embarrassed or think we’re gonna offend someone.”

The research suggests parents should look for events and opportunities to celebrate their child’s heritage, color, religious beliefs, and family makeup and look for opportunities to discuss and embrace differences.

Haider said, “It could be a moment in the supermarket. Moment on the playground.”

These are the moments that will help your child learn more about themselves and the diverse world around them.

The new study builds on previous research that finds a positive social identity and acceptance is associated with greater self-esteem, tolerance, and better outcomes in the teen years and adulthood.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Ken Ashe; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

(Sources: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/study-most-parents-dont-talk-their-kids-about-race; https://www.sesameworkshop.org/sites/default/files/2019-10/sw_identitymatters_screen_0.pdf)

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