It can be extremely distressing for your child if they are being bullied because of their race.
Whether it is name calling at school or receiving abusive messages on phones or online, the racism can take a number of forms.
But what should parents do if their youngsters are suffering in this way? And how can they get help for their children?
The NSPCC has put together some advice for families and what they can do.
The children’s charity says: “Racism and racial abuse or bullying can be really distressing for children and young people. 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.
“In 2019/20, Childline delivered 547 counselling sessions where racist bullying, racism or being bullied for spiritual, cultural or religious reasons were mentioned. In the same year, there were 75 contacts to the NSPCC helpline from adults with concerns about these issues.
“Racism or racial bullying can be overt or openly hostile, such as being called racist names or being sent threats. Or it can be covert or harder to recognise, involving subtle comments that put a child or young person down and devalue their experience or identity.
“Both types of racism are equally distressing for children and young people and can have a significant impact on their mental health.
“Covert racism can affect young people’s self-esteem and support the idea that’s it’s okay to challenge a person’s experience. This type of racism is subtle and can make it seem like it’s okay to dismiss racial prejudice or discrimination with comments like, ’it’s in your head’, or telling someone they’re ‘playing the race card’.
“These comments can be very subtle but they are no less abusive, painful and humiliating for children and young people.”
The NSPCC has put together a list of things parents can do to help young people, which you can read below. And you can find more advice on their website here.
What to do if you’re worried about a child experiencing racial bullying
If a child tells you they’ve experienced racial bullying or abuse, whether they’re being called names, excluded because of their race, attacked or threatened, it’s important to know how support them. The NSPCC has this advice to help.
Listen to them
It’s really important to listen non-judgementally to what a child or young person is telling you. Their experience is real, it’s painful and they have come to you to talk about it. Show them they can trust you by letting them know you’re there if they want to talk and thank them for confiding in you. The charity also has advice here to help you know what to do if a child reveals abuse.
Show them you care
It’s okay to feel uncomfortable and not be sure what to say. What’s most important is to show empathy and acknowledge the seriousness of what they’ve shared and how it’s affected them. If you’re a teacher or youth leader, remember that it’s never a child’s fault if they’re experiencing racial abuse or bullying.
Decide how you’ll support them
It’s important for parents to support their child emotionally by letting them know you care about them and that they can always be honest with you. Explain to your child that what’s happened to them isn’t their fault and that you’re proud of who they are.
If your child’s experienced racism or bullying from someone at their school or someone you know, consider getting a mediator for you and the other family to discuss the situation. This could be someone at your child’s school or a family member you trust. You should also let your child’s school know about the bullying.
Schools have a responsibility to protect children in their care and not to discriminate against children. If you feel your child’s facing racial discrimination or not being treated equally at their school, or that the school is not taking racial bullying seriously, it’s important to raise your concerns with the headteacher or another senior member of staff.
Help them get support
Sometimes a child or young person may need to be able to cry or express their anger or hurt about what’s happened to them. This could be through counselling or with an adult they trust.
It’s important to be led by what the young person feels comfortable with, but you can also reassure them that it’s ok to express how they feel and that there are different types of support available. Children and young people under 18 can also contact Childline to talk this through with a counsellor.
If you’re in a position of authority, for example at the child’s school, refer to your best practice guidance around safeguarding. This may mean excluding the person responsible for racial bullying or abuse, further staff training, changing your policy and educating the child’s peer group on diversity and inclusion.
Report hate crime to the police
Being bullied or treated differently because of race is hate crime and against the law. If you’re worried about a child experiencing racial abuse or bullying it’s important to get help right away. You or the young person can report it to the police by calling 999 in an emergency or 101 at other times. You can also report hate crime online via the government website.