In a world where the conversations on race and identity seem to be a daily topic, thousands of Americans identify themselves as biracial or multiracial. Since the 2000 Census, the number of American children that are identified as biracial has increased almost 50 percent, translating to 4.2 million biracial children in this country. With that surge, biracial children are the fastest growing youth group in the America.
We know that raising children is challenging and difficult enough, but when race is a factor, how do you raise a biracial child to be a confident adult, with a strong sense of cultural identity in 2016?
Here are 5 tips to add to your parenting notebook, that might help with the journey.
- First, Identify yourself. We are all a combination of many things—gender, intellect, height, etc. Help your children to see that who they are is much more than race. Encourage them to cherish every aspect of who they are without using race as a primary indicator.
- Explore and honor your family’s heritage and culture-know where you come from. A way to instill pride in your child is to make sure that they know who is on their family tree. Learning about your heritage and that of your significant other, will not only be informative in terms of health concerns, but it could also show your children that many races have contributed to who they are, not just two. Investigate which DNA kit is right for your family, and swab away!
- Celebrate your diversity. Celebrate the differences. If dad is Jewish and mom is Black, have Chrismukkah! If mom is from Mexico and dad is from Philly, eat tamales and Philly Cheesesteaks! Embrace the differences and expose children to traditional celebrations, food, and cultural activities that can be found on both sides. This will only reinforce just how special and dynamic your family truly is.
- Be a conduit for education. It is important to educate your children and let them know that there is still unfortunately ignorance and racial barriers in the world. Role play and help your children prepare how to respond to different situations and conversations. Encourage them to always share their feelings and thoughts with you. And of course, make sure that the next time someone asks them, “what are you…” they know exactly how to respond.
- Help your children develop empowered and resilient self-esteems. Praise them. Educate them. But most importantly…love them. Put the power back where it belongs—in their hands. Let them know that you love them unconditionally, no matter what race they are. Keep them grounded, while at the same time, acknowledging the fact that the world will see them one way but that is not who they have to be.