How to talk about #BlackLivesMatter, online hate & racism with children

The protests began in reaction to the death of a man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, the U.S after he was stopped by police. This followed several protests and some violent clashes between police and protesters – as demonstrations swept across cities in the US and also in the UK.

So it’s important to ensure children and young people who are feeling distressed by these images in the media and online hate and racism, have support from their parents or carers about how to cope.

What role can I play to help my child share and express themselves safely when it comes to addressing issues around racism online?

As parents of mixed-race children we have always discussed race – however, feelings and discussions have amplified over recent weeks. My son was eager to tell me he was playing an online game where Black Lives Matter was mentioned and he told another child he was black. He was beaming because they then ‘gifted him pets’. I was relieved this was the outcome (we had to have a chat about who we talk to online), but it shows children are well aware of the current environment and these discussions are playing out in their online world.

My advice to parents is don’t wait to talk about race and racism. Talk about how it might come up online in chats and in posts, what your child might see, and what they may want to share. Children will see affirming, positive content, but may also be exposed to prejudice and hate (there’s a lot of it out there). We must arm them with knowledge so they can celebrate who they are and affirm black lives, but be ready to spot hate and share any worries with us.

Sajda Mughal OBE

CEO of JAN Trust, Campaigner and Consultant
Expert Website

What can I do to address any anxiety and frustration that my children feel when seeing upsetting images online regarding racism around the world?

The first place to start a conversation regarding racism is with complete honesty. This indeed means an age-appropriate explanation, the issue must, and cannot be ignored. Beginning an age-appropriate conversation allows for the development of a useful frame for children to understand complex and difficult realities. Ignoring this leaves open the opportunity for children to draw their own, which potentially can give children an unhelpful frame for understanding difficult realities. If parents are silent, children will draw their own often incorrect conclusions about a situation and why it is happening, this is potentially very dangerous.

It is further important to acknowledge the child’s feelings and allow them to express these feelings, as well as, providing ways to express these emotions in a healthy and meaningful way. This may include potential actions children can take to tackle social injustices or ways they may be able to get involved in campaigns or talking about ways to cope when they witness social injustices.

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