Talking about racism as a family

October 16, 2020

We can all appreciate that racism can be a complex conversation to have even as an adult, so how can we adapt our approach when talking to our children?

Explore Learning manager Niah, discusses how to consider talking about racism as a family. She shares important advice that allows it to be a valuable learning moment for your child… and for you too!

Studies show that children as young as 6 months start to notice physical differences such as skin colour and by 2-4 years old they are already internalising racial bias. So, what does this mean? I think that there is no such thing as educating children too young and starting to talk about racism as soon as you can. Children are naturally inquisitive, and we should encourage their questions! Therefore, it’s important to allow open and honest conversations to happen at home. At Explore, we know that parenting equates to many tricky conversations, but I hope to make this one just a little bit easier for you! 

 

Take some time to reflect

We teach our children to be fearless, now it’s our time to be fearless also! You may feel apprehensive to approach the topic of race and racism with your child out of fear of getting it wrong. We’re all human, it’s okay not to be an expert! To support this, you might want to try taking some time to reflect on your own experiences and knowledge surrounding race. What do you know already? What more do you want to find out? If you feel that you have a gap in black British history, there is a lot of content circulating currently which can point you in the right direction.

Do you want to learn more about British Black History? Take a look at my recommendations:

  • Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire – Akala (Book)
  • Why I’m no longer talking to White People about Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge (Book)
  • British – Afua Hirsch (Book)
  • Black and British: A Forgotten History – BBC iPlayer (Documentary)

 

Honesty is the best policy

I find that it can be helpful to frame the conversation in the sense of fairness when it comes to talking about racism (from experience, we know that children tend to understand what is fair and unfair). You could start by discussing that due to our complex history, people of colour can sometimes be treated unfairly based on the colour of their skin. We can remind them that we should only treat people how we would want to be treated. You could explain to your child that getting to know the person on the inside is far more important than what is on the outside.

How kind our hearts are is much more important!

Regardless of age, it may be a little bit scary as a child to learn that inequality is built into the structure of our society. Understanding as well that this could negatively impact their lives or the lives of their loved ones too. Therefore, it is useful to reassure them that as the future generation they have the power to change the world! They can help shape it into a place that is accepting and celebrates diversity.

Remember to emphasize that they should not take the weight of the world on their shoulders. We’re all in this together and a problem shared is a problem halved, as they say! 

 

You’re the role model

As a role model to your children, you can lead by example and strive to have more exposure to different cultures in your home. Children are aware of the conversations we have, the people we speak to, and the media we choose to consume. With this in mind, having conversations about race with another adult (friend or family members) in your home will likely spark some questions from your children. It will show them that it is okay to discuss race freely and to sometimes have difficult conversations which enable us to better understand one another. You might want to try being mindful of the type of TV and social media content you watch, as another way to allow different cultures into your home and expose yourself and your children to different ways of thinking.

 

I recommend the list below to bring a variety of cultures into your day-to-day lives. Whether that’s through reading a story together or having a little boogie!

  • Music: The Return – Sampa the Great
  • Book: Sulwe – Lupita Nyong’o (age 7 and below)
  • Book: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison (age 11 and below)
  • Music: Legend – Bob Marley (age 10 and above)
  • TV Show: Black-ish (age 12 and above)
  • TV Show: Magic Motown (age 10 and below)
  • Book: Race Cars
  • Film: Akeelah and the Bee (for all the family)
  • Film: Coach Carter (age 15 and above)

 

You can use the information they have learned to create interest for them in community projects. As well as to boost their social awareness of the world around them. 

 

For example, set them a fun activity such as:

  • Cooking a new meal together that is traditionally from a different culture. Delicious!
  • Writing a piece about ‘How can you positively impact their wider community?’ 
  • A reading project to earn more about a race and culture they don’t know.

 

Reading some of these books together, listening to new music, and trying out the above activities will allow children, and the whole family to feel in touch with the wider world around them without feeling overwhelmed. 

 

Trying out these steps can make big changes for your family when it comes to talking to your child about racism. Be confident that your child can celebrate different viewpoints, cultures, and races. Alongside believing that they can achieve whatever they dream of.

 

At Explore Learning we are committed to change. We will continue to strive towards a curriculum that we can be proud of. One that demonstrates diversity and educates children on tackling inequality. 

Join us this half term to learn about and celebrate Black History.

Free activity sheets and workshops

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