As parents of biracial children, we’re often concerned about their identity, what others will think of them and what they’ll think of themselves. We want them to be confident and happy – secure in their identity. It’s safe to say that we have unique worries. Yes, all parents want their children to be confident and proud of who they are – but we, the parents of biracial children have an extra dose of worry. We know they hear additional questions about their identity. They face increased scrutiny. From “What are you?” to “Is that your mom?” and even more probing, invasive questions, our kids have to learn to stand up for themselves all the while feeling comfortable with who they are.
So, we make a greater effort to help our children appreciate their family, background and the cultures they come from. Here are 5 simple ways to incorporate teaching your biracial kids to appreciate who they are into your daily family life:
1. Two for One Holidays
Many families have traditions for the holidays. You can make your holidays extra special by celebrating the unique different parts of your biracial, multicultural family. We do this quite regularly. For almost any holiday you can name, we celebrate twice!
For example, we celebrate a traditional Guatemalan Christmas with tamales at midnight, firecrackers and grapes. Then, on Christmas morning, we celebrate the way I group up in the USA. We eat cinnamon rolls, drink hot chocolate and open gifts. We also hang up stockings and make plenty of Christmas cookies to share.
For Easter, we go to mass on Saturday evening. On Easter Sunday, we also go to church, but enjoy a fun egg hunt in our garden. I also make a point of enjoying a nice, family meal on that day.
Here in Guatemala, there is no Thanksgiving, but we invite my husband’s entire family over to celebrate with a large meal featuring Thanksgiving favorites such as mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and a baked bird. We all squish into our small home and enjoy a great time together.
I think this is the most important part to help our kids feel proud of their background – sharing. In addition to simply having our children participate in cultural celebrations and learning about their background – it must be shared with the people close to them. It gives them an opportunity to feel great about their culture and background. Who doesn’t appreciate a Christmas cookie? When my son gives out Christmas cookies, he gets to feel proud of who he is.
Even if your family isn’t religious, all peoples enjoy rituals and celebrations. Whether its birthdays, Independence days, Mother’s Day or something completely different, our celebrations help root our children in their culture and give them wonderful, tangible moments where they feel as though they belong. It gives them a feeling of “this is the way we do things.”
There are lots of great children’s books out there that are ideal for biracial children. I’m not referring only to the ones that address the issue specifically, but books that feature biracial kids in a normal story-line. Also, books that feature children from other cultures – even if different from your own – are a great way to raise their awareness and boost their exposure to different countries, backgrounds and traditions.
Reading is also a wonderful way to inspire great conversation with your children, which brings me to the next point:
3. Talk About It
Don’t avoid talking about being multiracial. When it comes up, discuss it.
Actually, even when it doesn’t come up, talk about it!
Our children deserve our openness and expressiveness about this important topic. It would be awful for them to be stuck with questions they’re too embarrassed to ask. If we parents bring it up, it opens the door for dialogue.
You can use a book to introduce the topic or just dive in. Discuss people around the world and their cultures. Talk about other mixed families. Talk about traditions from each family. Notice the differences in skin color and how each color is beautiful and unique. Allow your child to explore differences and ask questions. It’s through this process, that we all learn to accept and love ourselves for exactly who we are.
4. Fun with Food
Enjoy some new recipes from around the world. Whether you normally cook multicultural food that represents all of your family’s background or not, you can enjoy investigating and researching new recipes. Search for recipes that reflect your family’s background, or find ones from other cultures. Through learning and exploring, we come to appreciate who we are as well as respect and understand others.
5. Get Festive
Get out on the town and attend cultural festivals. Through these events, children can see many more people who proudly represent their culture and its traditions. This is a great opportunity for role modeling. Children see others who appreciate who they are and have taken the time to learn about their culture and what it means to them. Notice how dancers carry themselves. Try the delicious foods. Enjoy the art. And learn.
Depending on your child’s age, participate in activities. Often, cultural festivals feature an area for children where they can make a craft. And afterwards, talk about it! Talk about what you and your child enjoyed, what surprised you and make comparisons.
Whether the festival is celebrating one of your family’s cultures or not, cultural festivals are a great way for children to once again appreciate themselves and others. With all of humanity’s differences and similarities, the more we learn about each other, the better we can understand each other and live together in peace.
Parenting a biracial child is an amazing and exciting journey. As our children come to understand themselves and who they are in the world, it’s important to give them a good foundation. A foundation that shows them where they come from and what is valuable. For this reason, we must give them tools that enhance their understanding of their identity and show them how to respect and appreciate others. For just as we hope they encounter kind, appreciative and respectful people in their lives, we must teach them to do the same with others. ~Rachel
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