What You Should Do if the Child You Care for is a Victim of Prejudice

Coping with Prejudice by Making Diversity a Part of Life
By Alvin Poussaint, M.D. and Susan Linn, Ed.D.

Children don’t come pre-equipped with reactions to each new experience in their lives. When children are hurt by racial or ethnic cruelty, it is hard to restrain an immediate emotional response. It’s important, however, to try to comfort and explain instead of reacting angrily.

Families of color have an especially difficult job. They must raise their children to be free of prejudice while helping them to develop a positive identity in the face of prejudice. A family lifestyle that reflects confidence and self-respect is the key ingredient here. [As a nanny or au pair you play an important role in helping the parents achieve this goal].

Parents who show their children a sense of their pride in ordinary day-to-day living — without shielding their children from racial realities — have an easier task. Whether a family is Latino, or Asian American, African American, or Native American, their kids’ books, dolls, and other toys should be multiracial. Children of color, just like Caucasian children, should have toys to play with that reflect all races and ethnicities, including their own.
[If your charge] is called an ugly name, for instance, it’s a great temptation to fly into a blind rage. But what the child needs from you is reassurance that she is a good person and that people who call her such names are not nice people. At the same time, she needs to know that all people of that particular group don’t act this way, and that there are good and bad people of all ethnic groups and races.

Children need encouragement to be assertive in these situations, at least saying to the name-caller, “I don’t like you calling me bad names and I want you to stop.”

And it’s important to stress that talking out a problem is always the thing to try first. If a situation gets out of hand, a parent may need to intervene — and the child needs to know that you are ready to back her up — but children should be encouraged to initially try to handle these difficulties themselves.

Then, if a similar incident occurs again, they will be better able to deal with it. Whatever the problem, however, parents of color need to ensure that their children develop coping mechanisms that don’t compromise their children’s dignity.

Tomorrow on the Be the Best Nanny Newsletter blog: Weekly Trip to the Library — Books About Teaching Tolerance


  1. I work for an african american family and I am of irish decent. It baffles some in the family's local town. It's crazy but people have asked how it feels to work for the family??? It doesn't make sense. A family is a family. But in fact they are one of the nicest families I ever worked for. The kids have not problems. Honestly the third grader and kindergarten children do not notice they are a different race from others in their school. But I do sense it sometimes from adults. Kids don't notice such trivial things. Former white charge didn't notice Obama is black he said, "No he isn't!" Because kids don't make such definitions. The current kids could care less. Thankfully.

  2. Oh, and honestly, such shallow people that wonder what it would be to be irish and work for a family with african ancestors — I'd rather not be their friends anyway. Ignorance.

  3. I think it's hard to understand people of different races cultures when you don't come in contact with them.I used to nanny in a town that was mainly all white.The little boy I nannied for was in 2nd grade. He told me about a new student- a boy with a turban on his head and dark skin and a mom who wore sandels and a 'funny wrap dress'. He said the new boy's mom came in with him to class to introduce him to the other children and explain why her son wore a turban. She also had little treats for everyone.My charge though it was cool- but said that most of the kids did not want to be the new boy's friend. I asked-"Do you want to give him a try to be your friend?" He said yes, and we invited him over for a playdate.They became best friends and after 5 years still are.

  4. The point is to help the children to stand up for themselves. If anyone says something mean they need to say "Don't say that to me. It's mean!" That sort of thing. Racist comments or being treated meanly because of race or prejudice is like bullying! Kids need to learn to stand up to bullies.Plus, my mother told me to stand up for a new foreign classmate in third grade. I just did what my mom said when another student made fun of our new classmate. I said, "Stop it! That's mean!" It worked.Kids need to learn to stand up for themselves! Then they need to find an adult like you to confide in for help and to express their emotions. Then if they see another child being teased, bullied, or treated unfairly to step in and say something like "Stop It!!"

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