How do you prepare a child for discrimination?

Mother: “My boyfriend and I have roots in three countries. Our almost 7 year old son looks like both of us, but some Dutch people think he has a Moroccan appearance. We live in an environment where our family is no exception and he has never had to deal with prejudice as far as I know. But he will meet them.

“To warn him, I recently said that he may see people reacting angrily to him and thinking he doesn’t belong here. I was shocked by the severity of his reaction. He was really upset. He thought it was mean and unfair because he was born here and his family lives here.

“I do everything I can to tell him that he has multiple identities and what that means. We speak two languages ​​at home, we also often visit my native country and that of my boyfriend.

How do I best address this difficult subject? I want him to feel at home here.”

Name is known to the editor. This section is anonymous, because difficulties in upbringing are sensitive. Would you like to present a dilemma? Mail your question to [email protected]

Proud of different identities

Gonneke Stevens: “It is good that you are discussing this, because we know from research that children already experience ethnic discrimination in primary school, and that these children have more behavioral and emotional problems. They have less self-confidence. Most importantly, children feel they can talk about discrimination. They need to know that they can immediately go to Mom and Dad or the teacher as soon as something like this happens.

“Just make sure that what you discuss is appropriate for your child’s age and what he is experiencing. You can say, “Sometimes kids tease. That can be for many different reasons, and it can also be because you look different, but luckily that doesn’t happen often.’ It is important that you do not react too upset yourself. Otherwise the load will be too large and your child may start saving you.

“Research shows that young people with a Moroccan background have fewer psychological problems if they feel connected to both Dutch and Moroccan culture. From this we infer that it is good to stay at home and emphasize that your child can be proud of his different identities.”

Explain what prejudices are

Stijn Sieckelinck: “I understand your concern, because the public debate is hardening and intolerance is increasing. But this is not yet understandable for your 7-year-old child.

“Primary school children should be given the message that this is their home. We know from resilience research that children flawlessly sense how parents view society. For example, as soon as parents hint that ‘there are no opportunities for our kind of people’, children take over.

“Preparing a child for such a profound experience as discrimination is very difficult. What you can do is explain what prejudices are. You can teach him that we all have prejudices, that they are boxes we make in our heads in order to understand the world. If one day your child is unexpectedly discriminated against, he does not immediately feel desperate, but can place that in his understanding of human nature. Then it does not have to conclude: all people in that group think exactly the same.

“As far as passing on partial identities: it is good to propagate it, but in the end your son will have to make his own version of it.”