Talking with Children & Teens about Hate and Intolerance

Talking with Children & Teens about Hate and Intolerance

Dr. Ernest Levister

America is a deeply divided nation. Regardless of politics, there is conflictual, sometimes hateful rhetoric being spoken everywhere we turn… even within families, among aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. So, how are parents supposed to address this complicated reality with their kids? 

Our job is to prepare them to stand their ground for what they believe in ― and fight for it while being understanding and respectful that there are good people who may even love us and we love who believe something different. 

Treat all young people’s opinions and questions with respect. Rather than ignoring or dismissing an opinion or question about hate or intolerance that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious, ask yourself why you feel that way. It’s important to be clear, concise and factual even if their views are different than yours. When voicing your opinion or answering their questions, keep it simple. Don’t give long lectures or speak in platitudes. 

• Acknowledge that hate groups exist and that their messages are threatening. 

• Keep children and teens away from the scene of hate demonstrations or events. Find alternative and safe places to discuss the issues and voice opinions. 

• Recognize that c h i l d r e n , especially those older than age nine, often are more aware of what’s happening in the news than parents realize. 

• Take time to talk about your personal reactions in age-appropriate language. It is helpful for children and teens to understand their parents’ perception of hate and intolerance. 

• Encourage children and teens to talk about their feelings and help them find ways to express themselves in non-violent ways. 

• Involve children and teens in deciding how to respond. When they are uncomfortable or outraged by a situation, it is comforting for them to voice their opinion. 

• Encourage respect for diversity by teaching understanding and talking in a positive way about differences. 

• Seek out multicultural activities, books or websites that encourage family participation. 

• Make children and teens aware of your disapproval if you hear them use insensitive language. 

• Remember that you are a role model and you can teach your child tolerance and acceptance.

About The Author

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