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    Day 1: Classroom Communities

    Welcome to Week 5, Day 1 of Room to Grow! This week is all about teaching children confidence-building strategies when faced with a conflict related to race. If a student is teased or “othered” based on the color of their skin, a particular physical feature, or the way they talk, they can internalize that and experience self-doubt and low self-esteem. You can validate their feelings while also reminding them that there are ways to help themselves feel better: they can talk to a grown-up, recite affirmations, or sing a song that comforts them and reminds them that they’re beautiful and important. This week also explores speaking up for oneself and knowing that it’s sometimes best to walk away.

    Watch Proud of Your Eyes and Spanish is My Superpower .

    The examples shared here are also a good reminder that racism exists beyond the Black and White binary, and children of different races have varied experiences.

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhnWnWoVAk0

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXmnUQrHE6s

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    Day 2: Provider to Parent

    Today is all about helping parents dive deeper into honest discussions with their children about racism while at home. For instance, conversations at the dinner table or reading a diverse collection of books can both lead to further exploring the many ways racism can present itself as well as the impacts of trauma caused by racism. Children who have experienced a racist incident may respond in different ways, and this can be influenced by their upbringing or the historical trauma (multigenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural, racial or ethnic group) of their community.

    Parents can talk to children about how to respond after they experience racism, whether they are the victim of unkind treatment or an upstander ready to advocate for their friend. They can also continue the practice of honest conversations around skin color, language, and facial features while celebrating the differences that make their family unique. Families may have different starting points for this conversation, but no matter where they begin, this article can help you remind them that even little moments and everyday routines can make a big impact.

    Read Racial Trauma & Responding to Racism.


    Racial Trauma & Responding to Racism

    Racial Trauma & Responding to Racism

    by Chandra Ghosh, PhD

    When faced with painful moments involving race and culture, we all respond differently based in part on our past experiences. Some of us may have personally experienced racism frequently, others may be facing these moments for the first time, or witnessing it directed toward someone else. Skillfully addressing moments like these with children requires practice. Just like physical exercise, it may be hard to start, and there may be pain or discomfort at first, but with work, muscles will grow stronger. Check out this video as a place to start.

    As we work together in our communities to build strength in this area, it’s important to recognize that these moments affect each of us differently, depending on our family histories. A moment in which a child rejects another because of race or cultural background can bring up personal memories related to oppression, violence, or exclusion. A moment like this can also serve as a reminder of historical and ongoing trauma—times in which a racial or cultural group was mistreated so badly that those people were in danger within our society. When that’s the case, of course, it will hit both children and adults harder, and we’ll have a stronger response.

    Racism can show up in many different ways, and children may say or do things that reflect racist messages they have heard from adults or other sources. For instance, they may repeat negative comments they have heard about others who are different from them.

    And here are options for how any child or adult (whether or not they are the target of racism) might respond in these moments. Consider thinking about the difficult moments you yourself have experienced or seen, and then breathe, feel, share—partner with others—to grow our collective responses to these moments so you’re in a better position to support children. Depending on children’s age, you might suggest that, when encountering one of the above scenarios, they:

    Answer questions with simple, proud explanations: “My hair looks like this because I’m Black. Different groups of people look different ways and that’s what makes the world interesting. I like my hair.” Or “My name is from my first language, [name of language]. It means [meaning] and it’s special to me and my family.”
    Share their reaction: Children can keep their responses short and simple (“Wow.” “Seriously?” “Ouch.” “Not kind.”). If the person apologizes, they can move on. If not, then that’s someone who is not going to be a good friend. It’s time to move away and stop talking to them, and ask a grown-up to help.
    Share their view of what they said: “What you said is mean.” “That’s unkind.” “That’s not fair.”
    Show curiosity: “I wonder why you said/think that.”
    Repeat and emphasize what they said: Children might speak slowly, showing their surprise and shock to highlight that what the other person said is not okay (“You said, you can’t play with me because…”)
    Disagree: “That’s your opinion/choice, but not everyone’s, and it’s not right.”
    Connect the other person’s behavior to history and share a wish for change: “A long time ago, people used to think that [some groups of] people were better than others, and they treated [other groups] really badly. They were wrong, and it’s time for things to change.”
    When we understand these racist moments as both painful in their own right and possible reminders of historical trauma, we can appreciate that when we encounter such moments, we may have the typical responses of those who have experienced trauma:

    Fight: Feeling a strong verbal or physical response to defend ourselves from attack
    Flight: Wanting to run away, escape, or avoid the situation or person
    Freeze: Not being able to respond, not feeling present in these moments
    Fawn: Trying to please the person who caused the harm
    In these moments, the “Breathe, Feel, Share” strategy may serve as a strategy not only for children but also for the adults who support them. “Breathe, Feel, Share” can help us regulate our emotions, feel more whole, and be better able to respond.

    In a racist moment, adults and children alike might start by feeling flooded with feelings, including understandable anger and sadness. We can take this opportunity to slow down and be kind to our bodies and ourselves by breathing deeply. As we become more in touch with our feelings and bodies, we might decide to reach out for support, such as talking to a trusted friend or family member who might validate our feelings.

    As we consider both what happened and its impact on us, we may recognize that there are different ways we might respond. Having choices and greater confidence in our ability to respond can make the moment feel less overwhelming and stressful.

    Children need our support in finding developmentally appropriate ways of responding. When we help them consider their options, they can better move from feeling stranded with the experience to feeling connected. They can move from feeling silenced, frozen, and overwhelmed, to feeling like they have the ability to say or do something if they want to. Having these options can help make a painful moment less stressful and possibly less traumatic.

    Chandra Ghosh Ippen, PhD is a child psychologist and children’s book author. She is Associate Director of the Child Trauma Research Program at the University of California, San Francisco, Director of Dissemination and Implementation for Child-Parent Psychotherapy, and a member of the board of directors of Zero to Three. She has spent the last 28 years conducting research, clinical work, and training in the area of childhood trauma and has co-authored over 20 publications on trauma and diversity-informed practice.

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    Day 3: Fun with Families

    Download Printable

    Today is all about helping parents playfully engage with their children while also offering affirmations. Helping children find the words to describe what they love about themselves is a great way to build confidence, identity, and self-worth. Parents and children can stand at the mirror together and describe their favorite physical features, thoughts about what they’re good at, and how they want to treat themselves and others. Repeating positive affirmations is a helpful way to stay connected to our heads (what we’re thinking) and our hearts (what we’re feeling).

    This activity is beneficial for all different types of military families, and may be a particularly helpful tool for those with children who have experienced racism. It can help you remind parents that even little moments and everyday routines can make a big impact.

    Download I Am Somebody.

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    Day 4: Professional Practice

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phRhnWZ9nV4

    Today is all about examining and assessing your knowledge and understanding of the various ways racist incidents may occur, and how to respond. Recognizing what this may look like in interactions between small children, and learning terminology you may not have previously been familiar with such as colorism (prejudice or discrimination within racial or ethnic groups that favors people with lighter skin color), are stepping stones to becoming more culturally aware and anti-racist (a person who opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance).

    This video will help remind you that even little moments, asking questions, and everyday routines can make a big impact.

    Watch Talking About Race: The Marañas.

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    Day 5: Questions and Reflections

    Self-reflection is an important part of the growth process. Sometimes this requires sitting in discomfort and learning more about yourself before moving on with immediacy. Looking inward can help you access more information about what hinders and motivates you, which is paramount to building a healthy and equitable community with others.

    Take a moment to reflect on how your answers to the questions listed keep communities smarter, stronger, and kinder!

    1. How has the information shared in this week’s lesson shaped or changed previously held ideas?
    2. How have you been able to see a perspective different from the context you grew up in? What are some ways you can guide children in doing the same?
    3. What are the ways that caring adults can hold space for a child who is hurting after hearing an unkind comment about who they are? What are the ways we can proactively build community before this happens?

    “Don’t be out in the sun that long or else you’ll get too dark.”

    As a child I would hear this on occasion from certain relatives who thought having lighter skin was better than having more melanated brown skin. I don’t blame them or even think they knew the harm their words caused, but I now know that this idea is deeply rooted in colorism. For a multitude of reasons that are rooted in discrimination and the construction of a racial hierarchy, many communities of color wrestle with this idea that lighter skin is favorable or preferred. This is important to be aware of because it could be an additional layer keeping a student of color from feeling confident in themselves.

    No group of people comes in one shade or complexion, and we should all be celebrated as equally beautiful and wonderful! I love my brown skin and I do not take the advice of old and shy away from the sun.

    -Patricia A. Taylor, Anti-Racism Educator


    You’ve finished Week 5!