What to Say to My Daughter About Her Skin Color...

Updated on September 22, 2014
V.K. asks from Roseville, CA
15 answers

My daughter is 4 years old. She has been out in the sun most of the summer and even with sunscreen has tanned very well (and dark!). I am very white (and I am ok with this), I burn when I am out in the sun. Although I too have tanned (after burning... I actually think my freckles have connected but I digress), she seems to be upset from time to time that she's not white all over (like her belly is white).

My husband is darker than me and tans well too. My extended family is a mix of white, blacks and a Mexican (yes only one Mexican). So it's not like we have portrayed that it's bad to be anything but white.

When she says something like "Mommy, I don't like my dark skin, I miss my white skin." I calmly explain to her that she should be proud of who she is and how she is. Her skin color doesn't matter.

But lets face it ... she's 4 years old and she likes to have a favorite color and things like that, so I guess this makes sense in a way.

So besides what I am doing... how do you suggest I go about making her proud of who she is, regardless of how she looks?

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answers from Bloomington on

You have two answers to give her. 1. She is perfect the way she is! 2. Explain why her skin changes color with the extra sun and why she has tan lines and how heredity has a lot to deal with skin color. (google it if you need more info).

Today I explained pubic hair to my 3 1/2 year old. It's what it is, no shame.

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answers from Honolulu on

She got tan.
That is due to the sun.
Skin has pigment in it.
It occurs with sun. It fades if you are not in the sun all the time.

In Hawaii, ALL people of ALL ethnicities, gets tan.
Most everyone here is of mixed ethinicities.... and very exotic.
Then if not in the sun, their skin fades and reverts back to their inherent skin color.

It is not about ethnicity. It is about, what the SUN does to skin.
Make that clear to your child.

My daughter is very fair.
My son is more olive.
They both tan.
As do MANY kids in Hawaii, because they are in the sun everyday.
Even if using sunscreen.

Your child is young.
But, explain the dynamics of the sun and its effects. Because, that is what occurred.
AND that she is a multi-mix of ethnicities.
My kids are too.
They never have a concern about skin color. Ever.
Because, they know that everyone has different skin color and that tans are due to the sun, and it doesn't matter what skin color a person is... unless you have sun damage. Which many people do have, too.

My kids are multi-ethnic too.

A child's self-identity... is about KNOWING that appearance is not important. It is what is on the INSIDE, not the outside, that counts.

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answers from Washington DC on

She's 4. That explains it all.

I wouldn't worry about trying to make her feel "proud" of it right now or otherwise. I don't get the reason to worry about a child's pride in how they look at that age, unless they are a target of a bully or are one race when the entire neighborhood is another, I don't see a reason in mentioning that...

I'd stick with the matter of fact explanation "a lot of people's skin gets darker in the summertime because of the sun, it will fade back to your original color later on, enough fuss about it!"

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answers from Augusta on

Just explain to her why she's a different color now.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

It doesn't sound like she has a problem with who she is, but prefers her lighter color. My Mother is darker complected and she stays out of the sun because she doesn't like her darker skin color. She still knows who she is and doesn't seem to have a problem with that. Are you teaching her about her heritage? That would seem more important than skin color. If she prefers a lighter skin, I don't see it any different than a young girl with curly hair wishing they had straight hair. All seems well to me.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Well I'd take it lightly I think. My son is four and I recently buzzed his hair off bc it is so much easier for me to manage and always looks nice. He was not a happy camper. He said he looked too much like daddy and wanted his hair back. Go figure. He is very particular about his hair! So I just told him it would grow and that he looked very handsome both ways. I think I'd just tell her that her skin will be different colors at different times of the year bc the sun makes some people's skin get darker sometimes and that it is one of those things that we don't get to make choices about but that she is a beauty both ways. Kids are so funny about their preferences!! The reason I don't suggest making it about pride about who she is like with any racial association is bc she very well may not even be aware of race yet and literally it is just a preference she has. My son is mixed and he cannot tell you who is white and black. We will ask him sometimes if I or his father is black and 9 times out of 10 he will say I am the black one (I am like porclein or something!). He is not aware yet of race, but he does know that dad's skin is brown and mine is lighter etc. So I think keeping it just to the point that her skin will be different colors at different times and that it is totally normal is probably enough at her age. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from El Paso on

Maybe you could try turning it around? What I mean by that is saying something to the effect of, "I wish *I* had darker skin like you!" That's probably what I would say... God knows it's the truth! My daughters have my husband's skin tone (thank goodness!) and tan. I, on the other hand, am pasty white and burn, burn, burn! I really DO wish I had their skin tone... :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

If it were me, and my four year old daughter was upset because her skin was darker in the summer, I would just say, with a very surprised look,

"Really?? That is so funny! Because everyone else wishes they could look as tan as you! That's why so many people try to get tan on purpose! They all want to look like you. But, I understand you don't like it. So what we'll do is make sure that you have really good sunblock on and we'll reapply it often, so you don't get any darker. How does that sound?"

And if this were my daughter, she would think about what I said, and say, "It's okay, Mom, I guess I can deal with it." because 1) she now knows everyone wants the color of her skin and 2) she knows that I have listened to her and she feels validated, so her skin color is no longer the big deal it was five minutes ago.

Good luck!

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answers from Medford on

Im pretty light skinned,, My husband is blond, light as ever,, but, his M. is olive complextion and our 2 kids ended up with her coloring. How nice to see them tan and not burn like I did as a kid. They use sunblock when at the beach but not everyday. When they were little and started asking why their back was so dark but their little behinds were still white, I explained how they got their gramas skin color and how nice it was to have something special from her.

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answers from Washington DC on

My kids are mixed, light, but mixed still. So they do not burn, they just tan really well. I always tell my daughter that people would LOVE to have her skin color, even in the winter! It really is a gorgeous, lightly tanned color naturally (they are mixed black and white) and in the summer it just gets better. So I'd just try to tell her to be proud of it and move on...when she is a little older she will LOVE it.

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answers from Fresno on

I wouldn't make a big deal out of it. I think you're saying all the right things. Honestly, if she's anything like my daughter, she just wants to be just like you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I remember that phase!!! Although I had just turned 5 (May baby). The first year I was sad that my belly was "the same color I was born" but the rest of me changed. It was my first real "Coming to terms with my own morality" thing. I didn't WANT to change, to grow old, to die. I wanted to stay the way I was forever.

Nothing my mum said could really shake me out of it. I was in a snit. And I held onto it for months. It didn't even matter I'd been that dark before ((I go from vampire white to native american DEEP red brown/darker than many of my mixed black and white friends in 1 sunburn + 2 days to heal, and one more day in the sun. In a WEEK)). Nor that as the seasons progressed I got paler and paler. Not all the talks about melanin, not all the pictures of beautiful people of all colors. I'd CHANGED. And I was heart broken about it. I felt like I'd lost my childhood. ((I know, when a 5yo says "Back when I was a kid..." it's just kind of hilarious, but that's how I felt. I was Wendy no longer allowed in the nursery and upset about it.))

Then, a few months later, my babysitter came by with a "heart" on her ankle. One of those stickers you use in tanning booths had created a heart in reverse. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and from then on spent the next several summers all proud of my tan lines from my suit.

My poor mom.

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answers from San Francisco on

Just continue to say what you are saying to her. My daughter went through the same thing when she was about 5 years old and is nine now and is still a little uncomfortable, but doing better with it. She just doesn't like when someone says," wow look how dark you got" after swimming all day. We all have color, but she is just a little darker than the rest of us. We always tell her that her skin color is beautiful and that ppl pay a lot of money to get to be that color. We also tell her that this is how God made you. As she got older we began to mention that she will age more beautifully with darker skin. Learned that from the dermatologist office :) now my sisters are commenting to her and telling her I wish I had your color and she smiles. I know she will appreciate it when she is older.

Also, just wanted to mention that sun block does not keep one from tanning as most ppl think. It keeps skin cancer away and your skin from burning from those harsh sun rays that are a lot more angry today than they were when we were kids. I try to tell my niece that, but she thinks it will block from tanning, so she gets burned. I always use sun block on my family and they still come in darker. Skin cancer runs on my husbands side, so I have to be extra protective with my kids.

Good luck and don't make a big deal about it with your daughter, eventually she will love it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm sorry, but I find it hard to believe that a 4 year old talks about missing her "white skin" in a family where color is not a topic. My grandchildren are extremely diverse - Pacific Islander, Puerto Rican, Black, White, and another that for some reason escapes me right now. And they are all brothers and sisters and none of them ever mentions anything about any skin color or why one of them may be dark-skinned with green eyes (yes, she's a beauty!) and the other olive colored skin with brown eyes, or white skin with brown eyes. They are truly diverse and they don't notice! I think skin color must be talked about in your household.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fayetteville on

You can buy any lotion that has color to it and kind of a 'dye' so to say but i also have very pale skin so just wait for summer and then rub on some tanning oil..its a sunblock but embraces the sun to get tan..other than that..if you REALLY aren't happy with it and are embarrassed just wear long shirts or pants... <a href="http://www.thebeautyinsiders.com/skin-brighteners&quot;&g... brighteners</b></a>

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