As we stare our current political climate in the face, and either see or experience social and racial injustices daily, it’s obvious and undeniably important to teach our children about their own privilege. They need to understand how unearned advantage and disadvantage work, in order to meaningfully and ethically connect with other people in our diverse society, particularly in situations with people over whom they may have unearned social power. We can’t teach what we don’t understand or model on a regular basis, which is why acknowledging your privilege helps you to be a better parent and teach these vital lessons.
Almost all of us who are reading this (and me, as I write it) have some form(s) of privilege (unearned social, economic, and political advantages we enjoy simply because we belong to a favored social group) that affects how we live. For example, while my Blackness and femaleness put me at a disadvantage relative to white people and men, I am cisgender and heterosexual, so I do not face the additional barriers my LGBT counterparts face. I have the educational and class privilege that comes with having graduated from an elite college. I am an adult in a world that often disregards the rights of children. I am thin and able-bodied in a world designed for people who look like me. I live in the Global North, and am a natural-born citizen of the United States, which though complicated by my being Black and female, still gives me considerable geopolitical advantages over people living in much of the rest of the world. I take all of these things into account when I make relevant decisions, such as choosing which political candidates to vote for or what businesses to support with our family’s money. Whenever possible, I talk about those considerations out loud so our kids learn that considering the impact of our actions on other people is just another part of making wise decisions.
As technology facilitates greater connection among people, and as people use social media and other means to raise our collective awareness of the terrible things that happen to us and/or our fellow people around the country and the world, it can feel scary and overwhelming, and even more so if we have no bigger-picture understanding of what’s going on or why it’s happening. Understanding how systemic oppression works gives us the framework we need to make sense of the strife we see and experience every day, as well as a way to approach ending that strife. That, in turn, helps us assist our children in making sense of things that could otherwise make them feel scared and helpless, replacing that helplessness with a sense of agency; a sense that you and they can take part in making the world a safer, freer, more just place. There are plenty of other ways acknowledging our privilege can help us be better parents, including: