As the country marks Black History Month, it is a good time for parents and carers to start conversations with their children about race, diversity and inclusivity.
While we celebrate the influence and achievement of black people everywhere, we can also take time to reflect and help young people understand what racism is, how it can be used as a form of bullying, and what they can do if they see it happening.
Last year, Childline delivered over 500 counselling sessions across the UK where racist bullying, racism or being bullied for spiritual, cultural or religious reasons were mentioned.
One 12-year-old girl who contacted Childline said: “I am struggling with the racist bullying I get at school… I feel like everyone is against me. School is quite an isolating place and nobody has ever stood up for me.
“I don’t really want to address it to the school because that’ll create more drama and it will make more people turn against me and my school life will be even more miserable. I’d rather the school did a talk about racism and its history.”
When a child is bullied or treated differently because of their race, it can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, anger or even shame about their race or how they look.
That’s why it’s important to encourage positive and open conversations about race and racism with children and young people. Talking openly can help a child to feel more comfortable about sharing how they’re feeling and if they’ve experienced or witnessed racism or racial abuse.
Also, children and young people will have seen images and stories in the news around Black Lives Matter. They may also have heard or taken part in recent conversations around racism since the murder of George Floyd and many others in the US. However, some children may not fully understand what’s happening and may have questions.
This month is also a great time to look back with your child over key moments in history, while also talking about contributions to culture that could help to diversify the books they read and films or tv shows that they watch. This will help them to recognise the diversity of characters in the content they enjoy.
To find out more about talking to your child about racism, parents can visit the NSPCC website and young people can speak to our Childline counsellors about these issues at www.childline.org.uk or by calling 0800 1111 for free.