How to Talk to Your Child About Black History Month

Deepen your parent-child relationship as you learn together!
By Gena Ellis
February 8, 2021

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are better together. 2020 exposed the continuing racial divisions we have in our country. But we can move forward and come together to learn about each other’s history and experiences.

As parents, we’re in the best position to help our kids learn values, understand experiences, and build relationships with those in our community who are not the same as we are. We can model how we expect our kids to treat people who are different from us by showing respect for them.

How do you even begin to talk to your child about Black History Month?

Well, there’s no right or wrong way to begin. So, let’s get started!

Who created what we know as African American History Month, and why?

Harvard grad, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, found that African Americans’ accomplishments weren’t written in the history books. As a result, students didn’t learn much about African American contributions to the United States. 

So in 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week to highlight African American contributions to U.S. history. Every U.S. president has designated the month of February as Black History Month since 1976.

Now that you know the origins of Black History Month, you’re ready to research African Americans’ accomplishments! You can also recognize and appreciate the beauty in the differences and diversity in our country as a family. 

You’ll benefit the most if you keep these 4 principles in mind.

1. Be willing to ask questions.

Take a personal (mental) inventory of what you do know about Black History. Then, find out what your child already knows and has experienced. Being curious and asking questions lets them teach you a little bit. They may know way more than you think!

Also, ask your child what they’re interested in. For example, if your kid’s a baseball fan, studying Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, or the history of the Negro Leagues would keep them engaged. If your child is into science, learn about Garrett A. Morgan or Lewis Latimer. 

Ask questions like:

  • Have you ever heard about Black History Month? If so, what have you heard?
  • Are you interested in a specific topic?
  • What do you want to learn about?

4. Be willing to be uncomfortable.

It’s ok to acknowledge that you may not know a whole lot about Black History. Parents have to be willing to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out together.” This tells your child that you are open to learning new things and don’t know everything. There are some ugly and uncomfortable facts in the history of Black people in America. If learning about them causes you to react emotionally, that’s fine. Teaching your child how to identify emotions, whether it’s anger, frustration, embarrassment, or confusion, sets a beautiful example of how to process your feelings.

3. Be open to learning with your child.

There are tons of resources for exploring Black History with your child. 

4. Be open to explore and experience Black culture.

There’s so much to learn and read about the richness of Black History. Exploring and experiencing some cultural practices can enhance what you learn, for sure. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cook a soul-food dinner at home. Or, get take-out from a soul-food restaurant.
  • Listen to music by African American artists.
  • Take a virtual tour of or visit an African American museum near you (follow all governmental guidelines).

Whether your child has a Black History Month project or they’re genuinely curious, you can be your child’s go-to person for information. You have a prime opportunity to help them learn about Black History Month, but you don’t have to stop there. You can deepen your parent-child relationship, and your relationships with others, as you discover Black History together all year long.

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