A majority of parents rarely if ever discuss race/ethnicity, gender, class or other categories of social identity with their kids, according to a new, nationally representative survey of more than 6,000 parents conducted by Sesame Workshop and NORC at the University of Chicago. The researchers behind Sesame Street say the fact that so many families aren’t talking about these issues is a problem because children are hardwired to notice differences at a young age — and they’re asking questions.
” ‘Why is this person darker than me?’ ‘Why is this person wearing that hat on their head?’ ” These are just some of the social identity questions parents might hear, says Tanya Haider, executive vice president for strategy, research and ventures at Sesame Workshop. “We sometimes are scared to talk about these things. If the adults stiffen up and say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t say that loudly,’ that’s sending [children] a cue that there’s something wrong.”