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Navigating friendships & social interactions – unlocking the power of reframing

By | Top tips

While navigating friendships and social situations can be a fun experience for children and young people (C&YP), it can also be a challenging one at times.  We can play a crucial role in supporting our children as they develop the skills and confidence to navigate these encounters effectively.  One powerful tool that can help with this is the practice of reframing – the ability to shift perspectives and view situations in a more helpful and empowering light.  There are many different areas explored in the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkits for 6-12 year olds and for teenagers that can help C&YP with approaching social situations, including with challenging peer interactions.  This blog post explores some of these areas.

  • C&YP encounter a variety of social challenges, from making new friends to dealing with conflicts and rejection. These experiences can sometimes leave them feeling discouraged or insecure about their social skills.  Acknowledging and validating their feelings, while also providing them with the tools they need to navigate these situations successfully can be invaluable.  Just feeling heard can help to make such a difference.

  • The Reframing Your Thoughts toolkits introduce C&YP to a growth mindset.  Applying this to friendships and social situations, we can help them to learn that social skills are like any other skill where they can improve with practice and effort.  As part of this, we can emphasise that making mistakes along the way is absolutely normal and OK; and mistakes are actually an important part of the learning process.  We can help them to see setbacks as opportunities for growth where they can nurture all sorts of skills, such as resilience.

  • Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a social interaction, we can recognise and validate these, while also encouraging C&YP to identify a more positive perspective.  For example, if a child feels nervous about approaching a group of peers, reframing the situation might involve highlighting the chance to make new friends or practice their communication skills.

  • We can help C&YP to identify, recognise and enhance their focus on their strengths and unique qualities that they bring to social interactions and friendships – such as loyalty, kindness and humour.

  • We can nurture empathy in C&YP and encourage them to consider the perspectives and feelings of others in social situations.  By understanding that everyone experiences insecurities and challenges (even though some might be good at hiding this), C&YP can feel more connected and empathetic towards their peers.

  • Setting realistic expectations is also important.  To help with this, we can remind C&YP that social interactions don’t always go perfectly, and that’s OK.  We can encourage them to focus on enjoying the process of connecting with others rather than striving for perfection.

  • In challenging peer interactions such as in times of conflict and/or bullying, reframing can be very helpful.  The reframing toolkits explore with C&YP how most problems have solutions.  With this in mind, it can be helpful to encourage C&YP to approach these challenging situations with a problem-solving mindset, rather than feeling defeated.  As the toolkits point out, while we might not be able to control others, we can control how we respond to situations and help to shape our experiences.  We can encourage C&YP to consider alternative perspectives and brainstorm helpful ways to respond.  For example, if someone says unkind things and/or is bullying another child, rather than thinking – ‘Why are they being mean to me/what’s wrong with me?’ – reframing the situation might involve recognising that the child who is being unkind might be doing this because they are struggling with their own insecurities.  Whatever the reason, as the toolkits also highlight, it’s good to let C&YP know that bullying is never OK; they have every right to stand up for themselves (e.g. ‘The way you’re treating me isn’t right and I’d like you to stop’); and they never have to face situations alone if they are experiencing a hard time.  There will always be someone that can help.

  • It’s also worth letting C&YP know that, sometimes, a friendship doesn’t work out how they had hoped as the friend often does things that don’t make them feel very good about themselves (e.g. by regularly leaving them out).  And sometimes it’s a good idea to walk away from these situations and focus on forming new friendships.

  • One effective way to help C&YP practise reframing is through role-playing and scenario-based learning. Here you can create either hypothetical social situations, or use real life ones, and explore together different ways to approach them in helpful ways. This hands-on approach allows C&YP to build confidence and develop problem-solving skills in a supportive environment.  Each card in the toolkits come with a question at the end that can help to spark conversations.

  • The reframing toolkits also emphasise the importance of focusing on progress and effort.  As C&YP begin to apply reframing techniques in real-life social situations, celebrating their progress and effort along the way can play a really valuable role in nurturing their reframing mindset.  For example, we can recognise their bravery in stepping outside of their comfort zone (no matter how big or small the steps might be) and commend them for their resilience in the face of challenges.  Even if things don’t go to plan, giving it a go is already a huge achievement within itself.

  • Another really important and relevant area highlighted in the toolkits is letting C&YP know that ALL emotions and feelings are OK – including the more challenging ones.  They are not things to suppress and are all part of what makes us human.  It’s absolutely OK if things feel hard sometimes.  The good thing is that most problems have solutions and all big feelings are temporary and pass in time – just like the clouds do in the sky.

Navigating peer interactions is such a big part of childhood development.  By teaching them the power of reframing – the ability to shift perspectives and find helpful ways to view social encounters, including with challenging peer interactions – we can help to equip C&YP with invaluable tools.  Through patience, encouragement, and lots of practice, we can help our children to navigate the complexities of social relationships and develop skills that they can continue to develop and use throughout their lifetime.

The role of validation in unlocking C&YP’s potential

By | Uncategorized

All three of the wellbeing toolkits I’ve created (the Little Wise Box of Emotions for 3-6 year olds and the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkits for 6-12 year olds and teenagers) talk about the important role of validating children’s thoughts and feelings.  I’d love to take the opportunity to explore this area further in this blog.

Children and young people (C&YP) are like sponges, absorbing not only the world around them but also the big mix of emotions that come with it.  The simple and yet powerful act of validation can play such an important role in helping to lay the foundations for positive mental health and wellbeing.

Boosting Self-Esteem
When we acknowledge and respect C&YP’s ideas, no matter how trivial they may seem, we are sending a message that their perspective matters.  This helps them to build a positive self-image of themselves and grow up knowing that their ideas have value.

Big emotions and emotional Regulation
C&YP experience a whirlwind of emotions as they navigate the complexities of growing up.  Validating their feelings teaches them that ALL feelings are OK and don’t need to be supressed.  Instead, we can help them to learn that it’s how they react to these feelings that is the important thing and skills, such as reframing, provide valuable tools to help with this as they navigate the inevitable ups and downs.  As explored in the toolkits, validating their feelings, and offering empathy, also helps C&YP to feel understood.  And feeling understood can play a vital role in helping to calm down big feelings.

Communication Skills
Validating C&YP’s thoughts can play a key role in encouraging open communication.  By creating an environment where they feel heard and understood, we nurture the development of effective communication skills. This not only strengthens the parent-child bond but also prepares them for successful interactions in all sorts of different social settings.

Trust and Connection
Validation plays an invaluable role in building trust and connection with our children.  When they feel that their thoughts and feelings are acknowledged, this helps to secure a strong emotional bond enabling C&YP to have a safe space from where they can explore the world with a sense of security and belonging.

Problem solving
As explored in all toolkits, effective problem solving is such a valuable skill to start developing from a young age.  Empowering children to validate their own thoughts and those of others helps to lay the groundwork for problem-solving skills.  This helps to nurture collaboration becoming a natural part of their approach to challenges, teaching them to explore solutions and work through conflicts in a constructive and helpful way.

Resilience Building
Life is full of challenges, both big and small.  Validating C&YP’s thoughts and feelings provides them with the tools to face challenging situations and scenarios with resilience.  They learn that setbacks are a part of life, but with the right mindset, they can bounce back stronger and more resilient than before.  Reframing is an invaluable tool that can help with this.

Healthy Relationships
The ability to validate others’ perspectives lays the foundation for positive interactions with others. This can play an invaluable role in helping C&YP to navigate the complexities of human interactions, fostering empathy, and cultivating meaningful relationships throughout their lives.

Encouraging Autonomy
Validation can also play an important role in supporting a child’s autonomy, allowing them to develop a sense of identity and independence. When C&YP feel empowered to make choices and express themselves, this can play a wonderful role in helping them to embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

Validating C&YP’s thoughts and feelings is such a valuable investment in their mental health wellbeing. By creating an environment where every child feels heard and understood we are helping to lay a pathway that nurtures the growing and thriving young minds as they navigate their way through life.

Peer Pressure and the Teen Reframing toolkit

By | Peer Pressure

Peer pressure - teenage mental health

I would love to share more with you about the Rainbow Card exploring peer pressure in the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit for teenagers.

The front of the Rainbow Card has the following reframe  – “My friends keep making me do things that I don’t want to do (this is called peer pressure)” vs “I don’t have to agree to do anything that I don’t feel comfortable doing because my identity, views and values matter and are important”.

The back of the Rainbow Card starts off by recognising how it can be hard not to give in to peer pressure.  It goes on to explain, however, that giving in to this can mean turning away from our own identity and values in favour of someone else’s.  It highlights to the reader how they deserve to live according to their own values and points out that, while they might not be in control of how their friends act, they are in control of how they respond.

The Rainbow Card then goes on to offer a number of helpful and practical suggestions of different things that teens can do to help prepare themselves for when they are in a situation facing peer pressure.  It also goes on to suggest that, if the reader repeatedly finds themselves in situations where they are facing pressure to do things that they don’t feel comfortable doing, they might want to re-evaluate their friendships.  Ideas of questions they could ask themselves to help them to think things through are offered.

The Rainbow Card then reminds the reader that teens are learning so much about themselves during this time and, as part of this, some friendships can change over time.

They are also signposted to other Rainbow Cards in the toolkit exploring friendships and bullying.  Additional Rainbow Cards explore a number of areas related to self-esteem which also offer useful food for thought.

Finally, to help aid their thinking (and in light of the support they have just read), the reader is asked to think about how they might respond if they find themselves in a situation where they are facing peer pressure.

Here’s to helping teens know that their identity and values matter.

An introduction to mindfulness

By | Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is essentially about giving your full attention to the present moment.  This could involve focusing on many different things such as your breathing, how your body feels right now, the taste and texture of the food that you are eating, the different sounds you are hearing while you are out walking and so on.  Whatever it is that you are focusing on, this gains your full attention while you allow yourself to slow down, and allow your body to relax while you take the time to notice what is happening without any judgement.  By ‘no judgement’, I mean that we simply allow the experience to happen without debating in our minds whether it is a good or bad experience and so on.  Instead, we just allow the experience to be.

Why is mindfulness a good thing to do?

The science shows us that mindfulness can offer many physical and mental health benefits.  It is very easy to go through life simply reacting to things without really taking the time to pause, sit with our emotions and feelings, and think before we react.  Mindfulness is a great tool for helping us to pause and take the time to respond to different situations in a thoughtful way.  It gives us the opportunity to become more aware of ourselves, our surroundings, our thoughts and how we feel.  It can help us to manage all sorts of big feelings such as stress, worry, anxiety and anger; help us to sleep better; help us to feel more patient, at ease; and it can generally increase our sense of wellbeing.  Mindfulness can also help us to get better at other things like paying attention, organising information, remembering details and even improve on our social interactions with others.

How can I practise mindfulness?

As mentioned earlier, there are many different things we can focus on when practising mindfulness.  I start off below with an example of how we can practise mindfulness by focusing on our breathing.  This example then moves on to look at how we can use mindfulness to help calm our big emotions and feelings.

Mindfulness with a focus on our breathing

Paying full attention to your breathing is a great way to focus and help your mind and body feel calm.

  • Firstly, find somewhere comfortable to sit or lay for a few minutes (or you do not have to be sitting and could practise this anywhere really, even when walking down the street). If you are sitting or lying down, you may wish to also close your eyes.
  • You can then start to focus on your breathing.
  • Breathe in deeply through the nose for a count of three, hold for a count of three and then breathe out again slowly through the mouth for a count of six.
  • Calmly notice each breath as it goes in and each breath as it goes out. Feel your shoulders drop a little and your body start to relax as you continue to concentrate on your breathing.
  • Take the time to notice what happens to your body with each breath. Perhaps you feel your chest rising and lowering again.  You might also feel your belly go up and down with each breath.  Perhaps you notice feeling the air in your nostrils each time you breathe in.
  • You might like to put your hand on your belly and count each time your belly rises as you breathe in and each time your belly lowers again as you breathe out.
  • Your mind will wander sometimes. This is perfectly normal.  When this happens you can calmly take your mind back to your breath.
  • Continue to notice and pay attention to the movements in your body with each breath. Always making sure to calmly redirect your mind back to your breathing each time it begins to wander.
  • Repeat your mindful breaths 10 times (or as many times as you would like).

Using mindfulness to help manage big emotions and feelings

With lots of practise, you can start to use mindfulness to help you to manage different things like your big emotions and feelings.  For example, if something is making you feel stressed or anxious, you could try the following.

  • Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take a moment to pause and slow things down a bit by taking some deep breaths as outlined in the mindful exercise above.
  • You can listen to your body and ask yourself if you recognise how your big emotions are feeling in your body right now (e.g. maybe you notice some tension in your shoulders or your mouth may feel dry).
  • Make a point not to judge or try to push what you are feeling away. Trying to fight it can just help it go grow.  Instead, recognise and name what it is that you are feeling, become an observer, and just let it be (‘I can feel that my body is experiencing some stress at this time.  That’s OK.  Everyone gets stressed from time to time’).  The very act of just letting it be (rather than trying to fight and suppress it) can often help the feeling to float away and help you to feel calm again.
  • All the while, continuing to feel your deep breaths in and your deep breaths out. If your mind starts to wander, you can gently guide your mind back to your breathing and noticing the feeling in your shoulders as it starts to loosen up and feel more at ease.

Final words

The more you practise mindfulness (even if just for five minutes a day), the more effective at it you can become.   Remember also that you can practise it anywhere (you don’t always have to close your eyes) and with many different things.  For example, as touched on above, you may like to fully concentrate on: the food that you are eating – the taste, textures and flavours; the different sounds such as the leaves rustling, the birds singing, the sound of a car or plane while out walking; or even taking a moment to pause and think about some kind things you would like to say to someone you care about; and some kind thoughts you would like to say to yourself about you too.

Values behind Little Wise Toys

By | Values

I would love to share the values behind Little Wise Toys, all of which are driven by a lot of passion.

  • Taking things back to basics with an old school way of learning.  No screens, flashing lights or loud noises.  But plenty of opportunity for interaction, imagination, creativity and fun and engaging learning opportunities.
  • Investing a lot of time researching and exploring the evidence for each of the toolkits during the product development phase.
  • Providing accessible ways for parents and carers to support children’s learning and development where you don’t need to be an expert in areas such phonics, maths, emotional health, early learning frameworks and so on as the kits provide all of the guidance you need.
  • While also providing professionals working with children and young people in a range of settings engaging toolkits they can use to support the development of children and young people’s key life skills.
  • Creating accessible products that help to lay invaluable foundations in children and young people’s development from an early age.
  • Designing gender neutral and culturally diverse toys and resources. There are so many different important skills to be gained from different toys and resources. If certain types are directed at boys, and other types are directed at girls, then both boys and girls can lose out on the different developmental opportunities. This is why I was keen for my products to be accessible for everyone to use and enjoy. I am also proud to be a Let Toys Be Toys good practice award holder.
  • Ensuring that the kits include a number of environmentally friendly credentials (e.g. all paper and card used is either recycled or from a sustainable source; the magnet used in the boards is from a company operating a zero landfill policy; and the felt used to make the finger puppets is also environmentally friendly). Plus there’s a section in the collage kits focused on introducing climate change to children and how we can all help with this.
  • A whole lot of gratitude to everyone who supports Little Wise Toys. I love taking the time to include a personalised handwritten note with each order as a way of showing my appreciation.

You can find out more about Little Wise Toys here.

Seven benefits of hands-on learning

By | Hands-on learning

maths pre-school activity learning and educational toy. Hands-on learning.

When creating the Little Wise Toys range of educational toys for 3-6 year olds, one of the important things I wanted to do was create opportunities for hands-on learning.  This is because the benefits of this type of learning from a young age are very powerful.  In this blog I will share seven ways that the hands-on approach of the Little Wise Toys activity sets (and this type of learning in general) can benefit young children.

What is hands-on learning?

Firstly, what exactly is hands-on learning?  It is a process of ‘learning by doing’, rather than simply being told about something. The term is used because it usually involves physically using the hands.

Seven benefits of hands-on learning

  1.  When children learn with both their hands and their minds they are more likely to be fully engaged in the learning process as well as more focused and motivated to learn.  This is because a child is an active participant in the activity, rather than simply being shown what to do.  This can also encourage a longer attention span which can, in turn, help children to build knowledge and increase their long-term memory.
  2. Hands-on activities also allow children to use their senses while learning. When playing with the Little Wise Toys kits children can see, touch, and move real objects to complete tasks. This means that the letters, numbers, shapes, colours, characters and so on are brought to life. In turn, this can really help children to begin to understand the meaning behind what they are doing.
  3. Because hands-on learning enables children to get involved in the learning process, it can also make it more fun. For example, children can select and use the variety of tabs in the Little Wise Box of Maths for counting, sorting and organising instead of just being taught the theory via books or pencil and paper exercises; they can bring stories to life and explore how the world works using the themed boards and characters in the collage kits; they can also get hands on using their emotions tabs while exploring and learning about emotions and feelings in the Little Wise Box of Emotions; and they can hunt out different letters and start to bring new words to life by selecting, organising and placing them on their magnetic tablet in the Little Wise Box of Phonics.
  4. Hands-on learning is great for brain development too.  This is because when activities require multiple processes such as using the hands, talking and listening, more areas of the brain are activated than with activities that involve single processes.  This can help to expand and strengthen neural connections in the brain, which is essential in the early years of life.
  5. Introducing this type of learning from a young age is also great for nurturing problem solving skills.  This is because it allows children to think on their feet as well as give them the confidence needed to solve problems.
  6. An additional benefit of ‘learning by doing’ is that it provides the opportunity for children to keep on practising until they are able to work something out.  I remember one mum who bought the Little Wise Box of Maths sharing how their daughter loved that they didn’t need to keep on rubbing things out but could just keep on playing around with the different tabs until they solved the problem.
  7. Last, but by no means least, hands-on activities are great for strengthening fine motor skills.  These are skills associated with the smaller muscles in the hands that are needed for gripping and grasping.  The very act of using the Little Wise Toys kits and picking up and placing the different magnetic tabs helps to strengthen these.  In turn, this also helps young children with additional important areas such as handling pencils, rubbers, scissors, cutlery and so on.

Here’s to all of the benefits that hands-on learning offers and making learning fun and engaging for all the wise little ones out there.

Managing anger & the Reframing Your Thoughts Toolkit for 6-12 year olds

By | Top tips

Managing anger. Children’s emotions. Helping my child to manage their emotions

✨Managing anger…✨

A lot of the gems in the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit are in the small-print on the back of each card.  Here you will find a wealth of insight and practical support that children can use to help them to bring each reframe on the front of each card to life.  I’d like to share more about what is on the back of the anger card to give you an example.

The front of the anger card has the following reframe – ‘I’m feeling really angry and it’s all your fault’ vs ‘I’m feeling really angry right now. I’m going to calm myself down. Then I will think about what I can do’.

The back of the anger card starts off by letting children know that anger is actually a normal emotion that everybody feels and, when expressed in a healthy and positive way, it can provide opportunities for learning and change (e.g. it can be useful as it can let us know different things, such as when something doesn’t feel OK).  In other words, it’s not an emotion that we need to suppress or feel ashamed of.  It’s how we manage and react to it that’s important.

The card then goes on to explain how different things can happen to our bodies when big emotions such as anger arise because our body is preparing itself to protect us (e.g. faster breathing to give us more oxygen and sweating to help keep the body cool).  A sense of understanding what is happening when big emotions arise can be such a big help.

With this in mind, this is also why the back of the anger card then goes on to talk about how lots of other emotions and feelings are often hidden beneath the surface of anger and how it’s worthwhile thinking about what underlying feelings might be causing the anger.

The card then explores different practical things that children can do to help them to manage their anger when it arises.

Finally, a couple of questions are then asked to help children to think about how they can apply the relevant reframe to situations that happen in their own lives, and think about how they can apply the learning.

One of the things I’m really delighted to be hearing is how the toolkit is opening up lots of conversations and offering a valuable insight into what’s going on in children’s minds. As well as helping children to think about and approach things in life in a different way.

Here’s to helping children to open up and lay those all important foundations of social and emotional intelligence that they can benefit from for years to come.

Five ways to help children to manage big emotions and feelings

By | Feelings

On World Mental Health Day I would like to talk about some things we can communicate with children about their emotions and feelings. I will touch on a small number of areas that are explored further in the Little Wise Box of Emotions for 3-6 year olds and the Reframing Your Thoughts toolkit for 6-12 year olds.

The activity sets highlight how validating children’s feelings by offering empathy can be powerful as feeling understood can help to calm big feelings and emotions (e.g. ‘I can understand why it feels disappointing’).

Seeing another perspective
As well as validating their feelings, we can ask helpful questions to encourage children to see another viewpoint.  For example, rather than saying ‘You’ll do better next time’ or ‘It’s not a big deal’ (it probably is to them), we could say, ‘It can be disappointing when things don’t work out how you had hoped.  What do you think you might be able to do differently next time?’.

All emotions and feelings are OK
As a further example, the activity sets also talk about the importance of letting children know that it is absolutely OK to experience all sorts of different emotions and feelings (including more challenging ones).  They are not things that need to be suppressed.  Actually, trying to do this can even help challenging feelings to grow and become more overwhelming.  It is much better to learn to acknowledge big feelings and work with them to achieve a more helpful outcome.

How we react to our feelings is important
We can also let children know that it is how they react to their feelings that is important.  For example, when children act out in a way that isn’t helpful or appropriate, instead of them feeling that they are somehow bad because of how they behaved, we can offer an empathetic and constructive approach, while also setting boundaries.  For example, ‘I understand it can be frustrating when…  But it’s not OK to…  Let’s look for a better way to respond to this situation’.

Keep talking
And, of course, a key thing we can do is to open the door to conversations with children about their emotions and feelings and, in turn, help them to see that it is absolutely OK for them to talk about their emotions and feelings too.

I hope this small selection of highlights above offer some useful food for thought.

Home – schooling lesson about racism

By | Homeschooling lesson about racism

Racism homeschooling lesson

My nine year old daughter and I spent yesterday afternoon exploring racism as part of her homeschooling.  My mum is from Jamaica, my dad is from England and racism is an area that I have spoken about informally with my daughter a few times over the years.  We have talked about how things have evolved over time through sharing stories such as Rosa Parks and her role in ending segregation on public transport in America.  We have talked about the tragic case of George Floyd and how this is another example that has shone a torch on the fact that there is still much that we need to do to rid of racism in society today.  Yesterday we really delved in and explored this area in some depth.  We did a fair bit of research, had lots of discussions, and I thought that I would share our main findings in case they are of help to anyone else looking to explore this area with their children too.  Here’s what we discovered…

What is race?
Firstly, before looking at what racism is, I wanted us to understand what race is.  In short, this is ever so complex.  A race can be seen as the idea that the human species is divided into different groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioural differences (e.g. the African race, the European race and the Asian race).  Race is therefore often seen as something that is inherent in our biology, and is therefore inherited across generations through the genes.  However, modern scientific studies have shown that human physical variations tend to overlap between different racial groups and that genes cannot be used to identify distinct racial groups. In fact, DNA tests have shown that all humans have much more in common, genetically, than they have differences.

Many modern scientists argue that race is actually a social construct that is used to categorise and characterise seemingly distinct and different populations.  But the reality is far more complex than this.  Africa, for example, has been shown to be the most diverse continent on Earth.  As a further example, in America, people identified as African Americans do not share one common set of physical characteristics. Instead they have a great range of skin colours, hair colours and textures, facial features, body sizes, and other physical traits.

As one scientist argues, human genetic variation is real.  However, we would be best placed to continue to study human genetic variation free of the constraining idea of race.  This is because genetic variation is an incredibly complex result of evolution which should not be reduced to race.  Similarly, he argues, race is real, it just isn’t genetic. It is a culturally created phenomenon. Because of the inability of scientists to group people into different racial packages, many modern researchers have concluded that the concept of race has no biological validity.

The study of race is of course worthy of a book, rather than the short few paragraphs here.  Although hopefully these short few paragraphs offer lots of food for thought.

What is racism?
Next we explored what racism means.  After our research, here’s the definition that we both came up with… “Racism is where someone thinks that they are better than people of a different ‘race’ (e.g. a white person thinking that they are better than a black person).  Racism is not good and it should 100% be stopped.”

What is ethnicity?
Next I thought, OK, now we know what race and racism is, but what is ethnicity and where does this fit in?  Again, this is another hugely complex area, but after our research, here’s a starting point definition that we came up with… “Ethnicity often refers to the way in which someone identifies with learned aspects of themselves (e.g. nationality, language and culture).”  As with race, ethnicity is also said to be socially constructed.  It is also something that can change over time in the course of one’s life.

The impact of race and ethnicity
While modern scientists argue that race and ethnicity have no genetic basis, the social concept of both of these can still have a significant impact on shaping human experiences.  Racial bias can fuel social exclusion, discrimination and even violence against people from certain social groups.  There are many historical examples of this such as the Apartheid in South Africa where people were forced to live separately based on race and their skin colour; and segregation in America where people were also segregated because of race and skin colour.  In both cases, black people were seen to be inferior.  The tragic recent killing of George Floyd highlights the very important ongoing need to tackle racism in society still today.

Another historical example of racism, where race was used to create political power and dominance, is the Holocaust.  Germany’s Nazi party was led by a man named Adolf Hitler and he wanted to create what he thought was ‘the best and strongest’ race.  To the Nazi party this meant getting rid of many different groups of people – most notably the Jews, but also other groups such as Gypsies, gay people, black people and those with physical disabilities.  Millions were killed during the Holocaust in the most horrific way.

Every year on 27th January, it is Holocaust Memorial Day.  This event is an important reminder of how important it is to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and differences and not to exclude people or spread hate within society.

What is white privilege?
Something else I wanted to explore with my daughter is what we mean by the sometimes confusing term, white privilege.  I found a good quote about what white privilege is by JT Flowers who is a 26 year old American rapper, student and activist living in the UK.  He feels that some people get defensive about this term because it is misunderstood and people can think of it as a term implying that people have basic rights and benefits simply because they are white.  This is what he had to say… “You might be a white person and still be poor with a lack of access to education or face a language barrier in the workplace.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be disadvantaged in other ways.  It just means that with respect to that one particular thing – your race and skin colour – you do have the luxury of not being able to think about it.  It means having the luxury of being able to step outside without fearing that you’re going to be discriminated against or oppressed in any way because of the colour of your skin.”

We then went on to discuss a personal experience to explore this further.  The other day, on Instagram, I saw an image of a little black girl aged about eight holding a poster which said… “We said that black lives matter.  We never said that ONLY black lives matter.  We know that ALL lives matter.  We just need YOUR HELP with #BlackLivesMatter for black lives are in danger.”

A white person commented on this post saying “Shouldn’t this girl be out playing with her princess dolls?  Why is she being dragged into this debate?”  I thought ‘Wow’ on so many different levels when I read this comment.  I thought about whether to reply.  Then I decided that I must, as uncomfortable as it might be.

I replied saying:  “When I was this girls age I was the only non-white person in my year at school and I was bullied by a minority of children in my class because of the colour of my skin (I won’t include some of the words here as they are pretty offensive to repeat).  When I was a bit older, about 12, I remember walking in my local very white high street with two of my 12 year old white friends, and a grown man shouted out to me… ‘Go back to Brixton where you come from you black *#+*.’  Whether I liked it or not, racism was something very real when I was the same age as the girl in the photo because it was a part of my life.  Just as it is probably a part of the girl’s life that is holding up the poster in the image.  Please think carefully before you write such comments.”  I checked back the next day and, interestingly, her comment had disappeared.

I had never shared these experiences with my daughter before yesterday (it is not something I tend to talk about very often generally really) and she was pretty wide eyed.  This led us to the final part of our learning lesson where we explored what people can do to help stop racism.

What can we do to help stop racism?
We started off this section by looking at the following quote by Edmund Burke…

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We used this quote, the personal experience I shared above, and also some examples of heroic figures involved in the fight against racism over the years to help us to think through what things we could all do to help stamp it out.  Here’s the list we came up with…

1 Don’t accept abuse.

2 Stand up for others being abused.

3 Ask a grown up for help.

4 Read, learn and take the time to properly understand racism.

5 Be kind.

I would like to finish off by sharing two quotes by Martin Luther King.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and I really hope that there is some useful material in here that can form part of your conversations with your children about racism.