Having conversations about DEIA related issues can be challenging – particularly when we are reflective of our own roles, identity and growth. But they are important and powerful opportunities to create change, as we work to create safer and more equitable spaces for the generations behind us. 

Author and anti-racist facilitator Glenn Singleton discusses his four agreements for engaging into courageous conversations about race. The Four Agreements are:

  1. Staying Engaged: How do we stay engaged when our emotions take over?
  2. Speaking Your Truth: How do we learn to speak our truth even when it is hard?
  3. Experience Discomfort: When we learn – sometimes it can feel heavy – how do we learn to take care of ourselves when we feel discomfort?
  4. Accept and Expect Non-closure: We probably won’t always agree, so how do we continue the conversation moving forward?

It is important to teach your children to have conversations about race, sexual orientation, gender and more … but it is also important to share language that sets boundaries for these types of conversations. Having your child co-create agreements with you (brainstorm rules that make them feel safe to ask anything, define some words that might not be okay to use like “we don’t use or repeat ‘the N word’ even if it’s something we hear others use”, etc). This can help them feel safe, as they learn how to share how they are feeling and articulate their needs, which is an important part of the process. The more we open these conversations with our young ones now, the better prepared they will be to lead these conversations in their circles later.

Below we have some tips on the steps to take before, during and after your courageous conversations. 

But first, here are some resources that can help you start to have important conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism with your children (and while many of these resources were created around approaching ideas of race, many of the tips apply across all the intersectional identities we have).

Some of the below resources are great tools for you to review before you have conversations with your kids. Many of these resources provide great tools that will help you later have conversations about the books and videos we’ve posted in the Anti-racism Resources section. Others you may decide would be appropriate to watch with your older kids, and then have conversations that follow. 

Before, during and after your courageous conversations

Pulling from some of the above resources, here are some important things to consider before, during and after these critical or courageous conversations.

Before you enter the conversation

  • Know your goals
  • Be prepared
  • Know where you stand, but also be open to hearing new things
  • Know the facts if there are some relevant ones that help the conversation
  • Meet your child where they are
  • Acknowledge their values and beliefs

During the Conversation

  • Ask Questions and approach with curiosity (e.g. “That’s interesting, can you tell me more about what makes you believe that?” … as sometimes taking a moment to understand the context can really help shape a better response or overall conversation)
  • Listen
  • Repeat your child’s words back to them for clarification
  • Stick to examples that are concrete
  • Notice how you are feeling and what your body is doing during the conversation
  • If a question arises and you don’t have the facts, that’s okay. Commit to finding out and then following up with the information later
  • Remember this conversation is not a “one and done” … unlearning and relearning is a life long goal as we continue to grow together

After the Conversation:

  • Follow up and check in with your child to make sure they are feeling okay about the conversation or ask them if there’s anything they’re still wondering about
  • Ask yourself: what are the next steps?
  • Take care and be kind to yourself: How are you feeling? Acknowledge what you might do differently another time

Together it can be better

Is this process part of a bigger learning journey for you? If you’re approaching this work as part of a larger commitment to personal growth and change, often people report greater success when they find an accountability partner, or group of people, to engage with. 

Keeping with your commitments is important to this work.  Remember this work is about building community, accountability and change.  Having an accountability partner, or group of people, will allow you to :

  • Read, watch and discuss content together
  • Come up with Challenges (e.g. “we are only going to read books by Trans BIPOC Authors to give us a new perspective”)
  • Ask each other questions you might not want to ask anyone else
  • Plan and coordinate opportunities to attend or support events, workshops and cultural learning events
  • Offer support during challenging times (e.g. a person or people to role play conversations with)
  • Keep each other motivated and focused on the long game, especially when you feel burned out or helpless
  • Keep each other emotionally and physically safe
  • Be another person in each others lives who cares about this work

Interested in continuing your learning? Use the navigation at the top of the page (in the left bar for desktop platforms, or the “Section menu” under the banner for mobile) to explore a new topic, or use the below button to get to the next page in the DEIA Parent Toolkit