Discussing Big Topics with Children
Talking to children about big topics is challenging, especially when difficult subjects like violence are brought up in response to current events and tragedies. At Bay Area Discovery Museum, we want to share our resources to support our community of parents, caregivers and educators in navigating these topics with their children.
The resources below are meant to empower you to have an open dialogue with your children, answer questions about what they are seeing in the world today and participate in changes that will lead to a more equitable and just world for all.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day Statement:
Today we reflect on and acknowledge the land we occupy and the people who were forcibly removed from this land. The Bay Area Discovery Museum sits on ancestral Coast Miwok lands, now known as Marin and Sonoma. We acknowledge the longstanding history of forced removal and genocide of Indigenous peoples who persist today.
We encourage adults who teach and care for young children to take time to learn about the rich indigenous history of the land we live on today, and to start age-appropriate conversations about Indigenous history, both past and ongoing.
See below for caregiver/educator tips on starting these conversations and more resources.
Tips for Adults: 3 R’s
Read: Engage your child by reading a story written by indigenous authors. Here are a few we recommend:
- Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard, Ages 2 - 6
- My Heart Fills With Happiness (Spanish Version) By Monique Gray Smith, Ages 3 - 5
- When We Are Kind / Nihá’ádaahwiinít’íigo (English and Navaho Edition) By Monique Gray Smith, Ages 3 - 5
- A Coyote Columbus Story, by Thomas King & William Kent Monkman Young, Ages 3 - 6
- We are Still Here Written by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frané Lessac, Ages 7+
Research: Involve young learners in researching whose land you are on.
- Find out what Land you are on at: https://native-land.ca/
Raise Awareness: Listen and watch the Celebrating Indigenous Languages Project to learn about indigenous communities’ efforts to preserve and revitalize their languages.
- Click and drag the globe to find California
- Select one of the red pins
- Press play to hear a greeting from and Indigenous language near us.
- Practice together.
At Bay Area Discovery Museum, we believe in creating a world where every child and caregiver feels valued, celebrated and free to be their authentic selves. That’s why we are overjoyed to be celebrating Pride Month with special programming and events centering our LGBTQIA+ community.
We believe that teaching children about the diversity of human identity and experience fosters empathy, compassion and a sense of belonging. By instilling these values from an early age, we empower children to become advocates for equality in their communities.
See below for caregiver tips on how to navigate conversations about identity and the LGBTQIA+ community with your child.
Be patient and loving: remember that your child's journey of self-discovery will be complex and emotional. Be understanding throughout the process. Let them know that you are there for them, no matter what.
Tips to navigate conversations with your child around gender and sexual identity:
- Be Open: Have conversations with your child about identity to signal your openness to these conversations and reduce anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice. Let your child know they can always come to you with questions. It is okay to not have all the answers and say, “I wonder about that, too” or “I’m not sure, I’ll let you know what I learn.”
- Answer their Questions: Young children are curious and may ask questions about identity. For example, if your child asks why their friend from school has two mommies, you can say: “Families can be different. Some families have a mom and a dad. Some have two moms or two dads. Some have only one mom or one dad, some may have another adult that loves them.”
- Learn together: Engage your child by reading a story written by queer and transgender authors. Here are a few we recommend:
- Ages 0-3: Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
Ages 2-5: And Tango Makes Three by: Justin Richardson
Ages 3-7: Worm Loves Worm by: JJ Austrian
- Ages 4-8: Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
- Ages 4-8: Red a Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
Ages 6-12: Intersection Allies: We Make Room For All by: Carolyn Choi and Chelsea Johnson
- NPR: Why All Parents Should Talk with Their Kids about Social Identity
- Planned Parenthood: What Should I Teach my Elementary School Aged Child about Identity?
- San Francisco Public Library: LGBTQ+ Pride for Young Readers
Black History Month Statement:
In celebration of Black History Month, Bay Area Discovery Museum will share related children's books, resources and tips for caregivers and parents and uplift Black-led community organizations doing impactful work.
This year’s Black History Month theme is “Black Resistance.” This theme explores Black resistance and encompasses the ways Black communities have created ways to nurture and protect Black lives through education, community care, literature, protest and much more.
See below for some resources for caregivers to explore with their children this month and beyond.
Tips for Adults:
Reflect and Research: If race wasn't discussed in your household growing up, do some research on your own and reflect on what it brings up for you. The more you understand what race means and how it permeates our society, the better equipped you are to teach your children about it.
Let Your Child Take the Lead: Your children will begin to verbalize early on what they notice about differences, including skin color, hair, visible disabilities and gender. Encourage them to continue conversations like this and acknowledge your child’s questions and observations, even if you don’t have the answers or feel uncomfortable.
Practice responding with “I’m so glad you brought this up, let’s talk more about it when we can sit down together,” or “I love that you are curious about this," and "I don’t have all the answers right now, but we can learn together.” and “Hmm.. that’s a good observation. I wonder where you came up with that idea. Let’s explore.”
Uplift and Learn About Black Culture and Experiences: Learn about Black history, communities and culture through picture books, chapter books, and poetry. Make sure your selections include contemporary stories.
- Ages 2+
- The ABC's of Black History, written by Rio Cortez and illustrated by Lauren Semmer
- Ages 3+
- Change Sings by Amanda Gorman
- Ages 4+
- Parker Looks Up by Jessica Curry and Parker Curry
- Ages 5+
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o
- Your Name is a Song by Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow
- Britt Hawthorne - 32 Children's Activities for Black History Month
- Center for Racial Justice in Education - Resources for Educators and Caregivers
- PBS - Teaching Your Kids About Black History Month
- The ABC's of Black History - Children's Book Read Aloud
Tips for Adults:
Monitor your child’s play, behavior and questions to understand what might be on their minds and how they are feeling.
If your child indicates they have overheard or seen something related to the tragedy or news, ask them questions. This gives you the opportunity to meet them where they are and allows their understanding to guide the conversation.
Don't Avoid the Topic
Research demonstrates that giving children clear, developmentally appropriate information about challenging topics, instead of avoiding them calms their anxiety. A willingness to share openly provides understanding and reassurance, rather than leaving it to their imagination.
Remind your child that the adults in their life are protecting them.
Let your child know they can always come to you with questions. It’s okay to not have all the answers and say, “I wonder about that, too” or “I’m not sure, I’ll let you know what I learn.”
- What to say to kids when the news is scary
- Explaining the News to Our Kids
- What is Violence? A Sesame Street video for children ages 4 – 6 and their caregivers.
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain (available in Spanish, Chinese, French, and Arabic)
- Once I Was Very Very Scared by Chandra Ghosh Ippen (available in Spanish)
- The Color Monster: A pop-up Book of Feelings by Anna Llenas (available in Spanish)
- Zero to Three: Racism and Violence: Using Your Power as a Parent to Support Children Aged Two to Five
- CNN and Sesame Street: Racism Town Hall
- Newark Public Library: Black Lives Matter Instructional Library
- Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to our Kids
- The Anti-Defamation League: List of books for talking to kids about identity, diversity, bias and social justice
- The Oakland Public Library’s list: Talking to Kids About Racism and Justice: a list for parents, caregivers & educators