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How To Raise Confident Multicultural & Multiracial Children

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Raising Multiracial Children

Like most parents, I’ve thought a lot about my daughter’s future.  I have considered race, culture, language, religion and so many other factors that will become a part of her developing identity.  Being the mother of a biracial child, it’s been a growing concern for me.

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While our nation is increasingly diverse, there are still factors that can leave kids feeling less than confident about their heritage and wondering where they fit in.  This can cause them to feel marginalized on both sides or like they have to identify with one ethnicity over the other.

Now, through the growth of the internet, nearly unlimited resources are available to modern parents who want to educate their children in a variety of cultures.  We all have the opportunity to build a foundation of multicultural heritage that treats all parts equally, rather than seeing our children pigeon-holed into an ethnic category that forces them to identify in only one way.

In a world where diversity isn’t always accepted, there are a number of things that parents can do to help multiracial children to feel more accepted and confident about their diverse heritage.

  • React to negative responses from society. Whenever you hear or see someone responding negatively to your child, make sure that you come to their defense.  Treat those situations like you would any other and show your child that you value their feelings by speaking up.  By dismissing the negative you are also setting the example for your children, of how they should handle future attacks when they’re on their own.
  • Encourage discussions about heritage. Always be open to your child’s questions about their ethnic heritage and be willing to learn more in order to teach them anything that they show interest in.  In the same way that you’d want to understand about general American history, you should also be willing to educate your child on their personal heritage.  When they know their full history, they can then begin to realize a mixed identity.
  • Draw attention to the positive. Multicultural and multiracial children often hear a lot of criticism about their mixed heritage.  It helps to boost their self-esteem whenever parents, relatives and friends can give some positive feedback or compliments.  Talking about or meeting with other individuals of similar backgrounds can also allow a positive influence in your child’s life, one that will help them to develop a sense of pride in themselves and their heritage.  A mentor can often help them to see that their dreams are possible.
  • Create a family identity. Show unity in your family and minimize bias by sharing culture as a family.  Mix-up your heritage by choosing variety in the meals you eat, music you listen to and activities that you attend.  Each culture, language or religion should receive equal respect and appreciation.  The example starts at home with parents showing their kids that there is equal value for all aspects of their heritage.
  • Expose them to diverse materials. Thanks to expanding diversity and internet resources their are more diverse toys, clothes, foods, etc. available to modern families.  Invest in bilingual toys, racially diverse dolls, books, action figures, tv characters and more.  When you expose your children to diversity, they feel more at home with those ideas.  Also, seeing images of people like themselves will help them to see themselves as part of the big picture, instead of as an outsider.
  • Participate in cultural events. Attending a variety events is another great way to expose your family to diversity and learn more about a particular culture or ethnic group.  Attend religious events, festivals, weddings, museums, outdoor markets, etc.  Every interaction is a learning experience and a chance to bond with their heritage.  Show your children how to get involved and you can bet that they’ll continue those traditions in the future.
  • Embrace integration. With all children, and especially multicultural and multiracial children, it is so important that they have opportunities to interact with kids of various backgrounds.  Rather than pick our children’s friends by race, language, religion, etc. we can embrace the differences and schedule play dates and social time with diversity in mind.  This allows our children to feel at home with the differences and demonstrates to them that you acknowledge their need to socialize with others like them.
  • Let them choose their label. Sometimes we place a label on our children without even giving it a second thought.  We may consider them ‘African American’, ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Asian’, but often times children prefer to create their own term to describe themselves.  We don’t always have to submit to the politically correct term, instead let your child choose to refer to themselves as they wish.  They may prefer titles like ‘Tejano’ or simply ‘American’, rather than the politically correct versions.  Remember that this “label” often becomes a big part of your child’s identity, so it’s important to let them have some say in what it should be.
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  • angelica perez
    March 21, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Excellent advice for all of us raising bicultural (in my case multicultural) children! Love this list. Off to printing it as a wonderful reminder.

    Thank you!

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      March 21, 2011 at 1:50 am

      Angelica, thanks for your comment. There are some posts here that I have put a lot of research into, this is one of them. I'm so glad that you've found it useful. :)

  • Latinaish
    March 21, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Excellent advice, Chantilly!

  • Valentina Garcia
    March 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for writing this article…I think it could also benefit families who are not bi-racial or bi-cultural but are trying to include diversity into their lives. Well done.

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      March 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm

      Thank you. I know I've experienced challenges with this topic. Great point that these tips can also help mono-cultural families to add diversity to their lives. :)

  • modernmami
    March 26, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Wonderful tips. At what age do you think the "label" will come about? This is something I struggle with and wonder…

    • Chantilly Pati&ntild
      March 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm

      Melanie, I think that depends on when you're children become aware of the labels they are "given" by society or family and friends. Sometimes kids can get pretty confused about it or offended because they didn't get to pick how people see them and by what label they are remembered. I think it's important that we provide an alternative to the offensive labels that some might attach to our kids. I can't really say for sure what age, but I think parents know best what needs to be addressed and when. I hope this answer helps. :)

  • T Huntley
    April 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    love this- thank you!

  • T Huntley
    April 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Love this , thank you!

  • Chantilly Pati&ntild
    June 8, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Thank you!  :)

  • Chantilly Patiño
    September 19, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Thanks so much Dania.  I’m sorry I missed this comment.  You’re absolutely right.  :)

  • Me and the Mexican
    January 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

    These are great points! For some reason I can’t hear the podcast so I clicked here to read the info. So glad I have your blog and multicultural familia to lean on! They are great resources! Thanks for your hard work amiga.

    • biculturalmom
      January 26, 2012 at 4:11 am

      @Me and the Mexican Hey, thanks for the comment Tara! When you start the player, it's silent for a couple minutes while the opening advert is playing, not sure why. I'll add the link to the podcast on BTR, so you can listen to it directly too. :)

      Glad you like the post! =)

  • Sydney Clark
    September 22, 2012 at 6:21 am

    As a biracial child (black and white), I loved this! It's nice to see that parents of multiracial children are talking about ways to handle this difficult yet beautiful responsibility! A couple more things I would add from my own life experience:

    1. Live in a diverse neighborhood (if at all possible)- my parents intentionally raised me and my siblings in a diverse neighborhood and it had a huge effect on my childhood. It affected how I saw our family, how I saw myself, and how I related to others who had the same racial background as me or a different one. All very positively, I might add :)

    2. If you don't know how to take care of your daughter's hair, LEARN EARLY!- my mom is white and she had no idea how to style or take care of my younger sister's hair (mine is not as ethnic). She didn't seek help until my sister was around 12 and by this time my sister had developed a negative view of her hair. Try to avoid this by learning early so you can teach your daughter to appreciate the beauty of her hair and how to properly take care of it.