How much time is spend talking about race with teens in your house?
Growing up, my parents and I didn’t talk about race lot but that didn’t mean my racial and cultural identity wasn’t important. We celebrated Autumn Moon Festival with moon cakes and engaged in traditions to bring us good luck, fortune, and happiness when Chinese New Year began. As a kid, I attended numerous wedding banquets in San Francisco, counting courses that went into the double digits when cousins and relatives tied the knot.
I loved these aspects of being Chinese more than spending 8 years of Friday nights attending Chinese school. At least I’ll always be able to order dim sum, find the bathroom, and procure ice cream in Cantonese!
Even though I’ve never subjected my own kids to formal Chinese school, our biracial family has continued the traditions I grew up with. We’ve had many more conversations about race than I did at their age, due us being a biracial family, the diversity of where we live, and the age that they’re growing up in.
Our Washington, DC suburb is far more diverse than where I grew up. White kids were the majority in the college town where I grew up. I was one of 3 Asian kids in my elementary school grade level. The opposite is true of at my kids’ high school where whites are the minority. They’re also not the majority at the middle school where I taught computer science and engineering.
In our home, we’ve always talked about race, privilege, equality, and Civil Rights. My teens have grown up understanding the importance of allyship, supporting Black Lives Matter, and how Stop Asian Hate impacts their own lives as Chinese Americans.
My daughter bravely shared how she struggled finding a comfortable place being bi-racial as she decided where she stood in the fight against racism towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). These issues have always been important but are even more so in today’s world and to today’s teens.
Last month I hosted a conversation on Facebook Live for the Center for Parent and Teen Communication (CPTC) where Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson, Ph.D. and I spoke about talking about race with teens at home and at school.
Our talk made me think a lot about how I grew up, including the way my cultural and racial identity was formed. It also made me reflect on conversations I’ve had in our home with my teens, what my middle school students have shared with me about their experiences with racism, and the importance of parents and educators holding space for these important conversations to happen.
Conversations about race aren’t always comfortable but they’re important. When our teens bring up these topics, we often bring our own experiences and biases to the conversation. We can be quick to jump in and share our perspectives but sometimes it’s more important to sit back and listen.
Making space for these conversations to happen in your home and letting your teen guide the conversation are two of the main points I took away from talking to Dr. Anderson. We also talked about the importance of vulnerability, how discrimination can affect teens at school, and how parents can serve as advocates for their teens when it’s too uncomfortable for them to be their own champions.
For more strategies about how to talk about race at home:
- Watch the Facebook Live that I did with Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson
- Read How to Have Conversations About Race at Home, a blog post I wrote for CPTC that summarizes what was discussed during the Facebook Live
This post is made possible with support from the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, part of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I am a CPTC Mission Partner, but all opinions are my own.