CHILDLINE ADVICE: An opportunity to talk about issues of race and diversity
Our Childline counsellors know it can be hard for parents to know how to approach topics like abuse, neglect and racism.
It’s natural to want to shield your child, but as we mark Black History Month, I believe this is an opportunity to start important conversations about race and diversity.
While we celebrate the influence and achievements of black people everywhere, we can also take time to reflect and help young people understand what racism is, and what they can do if they experience it, or if they see it happening.
When someone is treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, nationality or skin colour, this is racism.
It’s a form of abuse that is distressing for children or young people who witness it, and considered a hate crime if someone commits a crime against someone because of their race.
In 2020/21 our Childline counsellors delivered 285 counselling sessions where racist bullying, racism or being bullied for spiritual, cultural or religious reasons were mentioned.
That’s why it’s vital to encourage positive and open conversations about race and racism with children and young people, and not just when related events feature in the news.
It’s important to talk about this issue early too, as research shows children can internalise racial bias between the ages of two and four.
It can help to frame the conversation using examples of fairness, how to be kind and accepting others for who they are to start these discussions.
With older children, let them lead the conversation so they feel confident sharing their ideas or experiences with you.
It’s understandable to feel uncomfortable talking about things we may not know much about, so if you’re worried about how to answer a question your child has about racism or equality the best thing to do is learn together with your child.
The NSPCC website has an area offering support for parents which can help get you started, and our Childline counsellors are always here to help and support children too.
They can be contacted for free and confidentiality on 0800 1111 or by logging onto www.childline.org.uk and using our one-to-one chat service.