Talking to children about race and racism

Published: 17th Jun 2020

At Birmingham Children’s Trust we believe that all children have the right to grow up in a safe and loving environment regardless of their race and background.

The Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic events which led to anti-racism demonstrations have highlighted our need to re-visit talking to children about racism. 

We know it can be a difficult topic to talk about, but it is also an important part of helping children understand the world around them. Babies can recognise different skin colours from six months old and learn to copy racial bias from what they see around them from as young as the age of five. When you have a conversation with a child about racism you can help them to understand what they’re seeing and to avoid copying racist behaviour.

It is never too early or too late to talk to children about racism.

Every family will have their own way of talking about race and racism. We have compiled some resources below that might help you to start a conversation about racism with the children you care for.

Resources for parents and carers

  • UNICEF offer advice and guidance to help you talk to children of all ages. Their advice is organised by age range to make it easier for you to find the information you need. Read: How to talk to your kids about racism by UNICEF.
  • How to talk to your children about race and racism by the BBC’s Women’s hour offers nine tips on how to talk to your children about race and racism. The full one-hour episode features parents discussing their own experiences. Listen to: How to talk to your children about race and racism.

Resources for children and young people

  • The children’s TV programme Newsround ran an episode exploring racism, what happened to George Floyd and how the Black Lives Matters movement responded. Watch: George Floyd: Racism in the US by CBBC.
  • Hair Love is an Oscar winning animated short film. It explores a little girls’ relationship with her father and her hair. The film encourages self-affirmation and individuality and provides a positive representation of black families and black hair. Watch: Hair Love by Sony Animated Pictures.
  • There is a growing range of books to help introduce children to the topics of diversity, race and racism. Waterstones have created a stock list of books on these topics. Browse the topic: Racism and diversity books for children and teenagers. These books may also be available to borrow for free through your local library.