Sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking that if we do not bring attention to something, our kids don't notice it either. I am realizing more and more that that is not true. Kids are constantly deciphering the world around them, and sometimes the conclusions they come to are not accurate.
Many times these inaccurate conclusions are harmless and humorous, but there are times where the matter could be more serious and important.
For example... My son and I were reading a book about road signs, and when we got to the handicap sign, he said that it was the sign that tells you that you can push your bike up the ramp to the door. In his life, that was his only purpose for that sign. But the book gave me the opening to talk about wheelchairs and people with disabilities. We had seen a man going into church in a wheelchair just a few days before so it was a good opportunity to talk about it.
Similarly, Nurture Shock talks about discussing race with your children. A lot of times we fall into the trap of thinking that our children don't see color or race, but many studies have found that that is not true. The studies found that talking openly about race and skin color decreased negative feelings about other races. The explanation is that children notice differences in themselves and others (hair color, gender, skin color, etc); and naturally children think positive thoughts of those similar to them and negative thoughts about those different from them. Even children who were in very mixed neighborhoods had negative impressions of other races (sometimes even more-so than more segregated areas).
This made sense to me and encouraged me to approach this topic naturally with my children. We were reading a book where there were children of different races, and we talked about how the different children looked. It felt awkward to me, but we talked about skin color and how the one girl had brown skin, and my son mentioned that he had white skin matter of factly. We talked about all of the kids' different features, and we talked about how all of the children were nice, kind and friendly. The brown hair boy was nice and so was the yellow hair boy. The brown skin girl was nice and so was the white skin girl.
It felt awkward to me because it has become such a taboo topic, but to my preschooler it didn't seem odd. It made sense to him that we all have different features, and I was glad that I approached the topic. So I encourage you all to pick up a copy of Nurture Shock (I found a copy at my local library), and read about approaching the topic of race and have open conversations about it with your children.
The hard conversations are only going to get harder as my kiddos grow up, so I might as well start practicing now!