Parents and educators cannot control the experiences of a child’s everyday life. At some point (likely at more than one point) in their life, your mixed race child will face questioning, teasing, and difficulty feeling like they belong. However, there are things as parents or caregivers that you can do to create an environment where your child is more likely to build a healthy sense of identity and feel pride in asserting that identity.
Expose your child to all parts of their heritage, even if you are not familiar with them yourself. Take it upon yourself and your family to learn about all of the ethnic cultures in your family unit, and experience them. Integrate cultural norms into your everyday life. Eat the foods — cook the foods! Watch the films; learn the languages; wear the clothing; celebrate the holidays; travel to the countries of your child’s ethnic origins, or visit local communities (can’t make it to China? Make it to Chinatown, once a month, for dim sum!). Exposing your child to their ethnic cultures will not only familiarize them and teach them who they are, helping them develop a full sense of identity, but it will also help normalize their identities and develop ethnic and/or mixed pride. Start by visiting with grandparents and having conversations about their lives and experiences, it is often older generations that can inspire understanding and pride in our children as they learn about their family histories.
Watch films and consume media that portray people of color and mixed race people as complex characters and protagonists. One important way to counter societal bias is by consciously consuming diverse media that counters negative stereotypes of people of color. Read books that depict mixed race characters and characters of your child’s ethnicities. It is important for children to see positive portrayals of people who look like them in popular media to feel validation and normalization of their experiences and identities. If you can’t find a children’s book featuring a protagonist who has the same ethnic background as your child, write one (or send us a message with your book suggestion and we’ll write one for you)! Make it a family project to create a picture book just for your child. Check out these book lists to find a wide range of children’s books for your family, and our Media section for links to videos, films, artwork, and more that feature mixed race people as the focus.
Foster an open, honest dialogue from the start. Conversations about “race” should not be off the table, even for young children. Adults need to adjust their mindsets and realize that children develop their own understandings of race, and their own biases. Without your educated guidance and willingness to have open conversations, those understandings may develop in directions that you do not want for your child. By creating a safe space for open discussions, you may help your child feel more confident in fielding difficult situations with peers at school or elsewhere. Research has shown that mixed race children whose parents take an active role in their comprehensive racial learning have higher self-esteem, less disciplinary issues, and positive mental health outcomes.
Create a community that includes people of color and other mixed race people (children and adults), where possible. If your child’s school community is mostly white or monoracial, look for meet-up groups in the area that celebrate ethnic diversity. Take your child for trips to cities that are more diverse. Examine the community you already expose your child to and ask yourself if you are implicitly sending messages you do not intend to — are your close friends predominantly of one racial group? What about the neighborhood where you live? Examine your own biases and work to consciously dismantle them for the benefit of your child. Check out our Community section for links to communities for parents and educators to learn more about race and racial justice.