Sometimes children may exhibit a phobia towards people of different races. This is typically seen in small children who are preschool age or younger. Such fears do not mean your child is an evil racist. It means the circuitry in their brain that causes all people to be somewhat suspicious of those outside one’s own group is especially hyperactive. However, if left unchecked, this fear can morph into something uglier.
*Note: Racial fears can also arise in older children as a result of trauma from exposure to violence, but that’s a whole new issue that needs to be addressed alongside this one. See our Family Life Recovery Handbook for more information.
Helping children overcome their fear of people of different races
- Try to arrange play dates with kids of different races. Children aren’t intimidated by other children in the same way they are by adults. Through other kids, they’ll get exposure to parents and the idea that people of different races are moms and dads just like their own.
- Children may misunderstand black skin to be burnt, which provokes anxiety and thus leads to fear. Be sure to talk to them about lineage and how people are born with different shades of skin, just like they’re born with different hair colors.
- Get some theater makeup that changes your skin tone to a black or brown or whatever race your child exhibits anxiety about. Then sit down for a play session where you color each other’s face to see what you might look like in a different race while talking about how racial differences are only skin deep.
- Try to make a habit of talking to such people yourself while holding a child or clasping their hand.
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