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How to guide biracial children to develop self-Identity
Raising biracial kids? Start young and direct your children to see and embrace the difference with these tips.
“The Human Race”
When a 22-year-old Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament in 1997, immediately, he became the golf sensation where all the media eager to cover his story. Most of the coverage went on and described him as a talented “African American” athlete.
Shortly after that, he appeared on Oprah Winfrey Show and was asked if it bothered him to be labeled it this way since he is the child of an African American father and a Thai mother.
He replied, “Yes! It does.”
During the interview, Tiger Woods describes himself as “Cablinasian,” a mix of Caucasian, black, Indian, and Asian.
Oprah Winfrey continued to ask Tiger Woods’ father, Earl Woods, on how he addressed the race topics with a multiracial child.
Earl replied: “The Human race!”
Parents of biracial kids need to take a proactive approach
While the multicultural population in the world is increasing, the number of biracial or multiracial children is also growing simultaneously.
On a positive trend, the social attitudes towards biracial and multiracial people are more acceptable in the modern-day now than compared to the 1997 Tiger Woods time.
On the other hand, biracial and multiracial people are also more comfortable identifying themselves as a mixed-race.
Do you and your partner belong to different races and have a biracial child?
Are you wondering how Tiger Woods’ parents raise him to be such a confident and successful multiracial child?
The good news is raising a well adjusted biracial child is possible if parents can take a proactive approach, try to start young, and be more sensitive to children’s behavior.
Why start young?
Research continues to uncover early childhood (3 to 6-year-old) is a crucial time, as the child sets the stage for who they will become.
Most children at around age 3 start to develop a “self-concept,” which means they are beginning to learn who they are and to form a sense of identity. Preschoolers can see themselves as a separate individual and often define themselves by descriptive labels. Such as name, gender, and age.
In general, a child’s self-identity is often shaped by environment, values, attributes, abilities, and attitude over a period of time. During this period, parents have a critical role in guiding children in developing a categorical self.
The beliefs and values of parents to their biracial children’s status will influence how your children will enact to his or her racial identity in their later life.
How to guide biracial kids to develop self-identity?
Here we go through 3 important ways you can guide your biracial kids.
1. Promote individual differences
Parents of biracial or multiracial children need to promote the acceptance of individual differences from a young age.
First, create awareness for your children to understand that everyone is different and unique in their own way. Follow by learning to accept and respect others and their own differences. This process can help them to create a sense of self-security growing up.
Parents with a biracial child need to take on a proactive role in exploring diverse learning opportunities for your young learner. Here are some suggestions getting you started to create some diversity awareness:
- Set up diverse playdates
Arrange playdates with children from various backgrounds, nationalities, beliefs, and race. Engage your child with other children, it allows them to understand everyone is different, but everyone is equal.
- Choose a multicultural classroom
Due to the rise of the biracial population, many education institutes start to embrace multicultural education and teaching diversity in children’s school life, school accept teachers and students from varies backgrounds, and encourage a global mindset in kids. Speak with the school; understand if children have enough exposure to different languages, religions, races, geography, and cultures.
- Implement multicultural educational materials
Parents can also try to create some educational materials at home such as reading multicultural books, playing race matching cards, making some multicultural art & craft, or even cooking international cuisine. These materials are one of the easiest ways of bonding with your child. Be attentive and listen to your child closely, as it may help them to stay focus on the activity.
- Cover racism & discrimination topics
When your biracial child reaches older age, direct teaching, and reactive discussions about racism and discrimination are also vital during the learning process. If parents communicate openly and effectively about racism and discrimination, the chances are that your children will be more open-mind when facing this subject in their later life.
Parents always want to provide the best possible raising environment for their children, and I am no different. While all children are unique and develop at their own pace, the direct cultural influences during their early development is playing a significant role.
For that reason, my husband and I have moved to Barcelona from Taiwan with our two biracial daughters. We believe Barcelona is a multicultural city that can provide enough exposure to racial diversity. If you have the same dream, check out the top multicultural city for raising kids here.
2. Connect biracial children to their family heritage
Encourage your child to talk about family traditions to assist your biracial child in exploring both sides of the family heritages. Understanding family heritages can create awareness of their cultural differences and feel confident to talk about it in the future; here are a few practical ways to introduce family heritage:
- Consistent exposure to both sides of family histories, traditions, food, and languages. Take advantage of the multilingual background, and introduce the family’s native language to your biracial toddler if possible, teach your children favorite family recipes, incorporate some popular family traditions such as Christmas or Chinese New Year. Eg. celebrating Chinese New Year in Barcelona is a lot harder than in Taiwan. However, I need to be proactive in introducing this vital culture to my biracial daughters.
- Grandparents often provide a sense of cultural heritage to the later generations; they can play as a positive role model and influence to your biracial child. Grandparents are usually the best people to explore the family tree with grandchildren.
- Participate in family activities such as dinner or travel, try to engage your biracial child with family members; it can help them to develop an emotional connection. Biracial children that have a healthy attachment with parents and extended family are more likely to have stronger family pride, which can further lead the child to stronger family self-esteem at his or her later life.
3. Encourage self-development
Hearing Tiger Woods’ father Earl saying he was raising a human race rather than categorizing him into a specific race bracket. It inspires me as a parent to step outside the box.
Biracial children should feel free to explore both sides of their parent’s cultures, and parents do not need to worry about defining them on either one side or the other.
It is okay that your biracial children show more interest over the other, let the children invest their own time in the subject they are interested in. Allow them to label themselves the way they wish for, and parents should respect the children’s imaginations and preferences.
When I speak about self-development, it referred to both internal and external. Biracial children are known to grow up with a unique challenge, while most people usually judge their appearances. Therefore, parents must pay extra attention; these judgments often create self-doubt for young children.
These are a few suggestions to encourage your biracial child:
- Embrace their features
Relate your biracial children’s features to you as a parent and emphasize by using adjectives such as “big, small, round or tall” rather than classifying them into a category such as Asian hair, Western eyes, and so forth.
- Go ahead and be dressy
Help them to feel beautiful in their own way. Observe your children’s wardrobe interest and allow them to select their daily items. Wear things they have an interest in and adore with can boost their self-confidence. A typical day with my two toddlers starts with choosing the outfits they like. Throughout the process, I use simple vocabulary to select the clothes with them and also praise to make them feel valued. For example: “ I love the car on your pants” “ you look great in yellow.” Toddlers are also like us. We feel good and confident about ourselves when we feel pretty, so go ahead and be dressy!
- Cheers for any World Cup or Olympics team
Biracial children should support the team, the nationality where owns a piece of their hearts. Ultimately, parents of a biracial child do not want them to feel the burden of having to choose any side. Instead, help your biracial child to find comfort in their own skin within the presence of all races.
Raising Biracial Kids
There is no doubt that most biracial or multiracial children growing up having a hard time finding their own identity. Keep in mind again, raising a well-adjusted biracial child is possible if parents can take a proactive approach, start young, and be more sensitive to children’s behavior.
Author: Hsin is a third-culture kid from Taiwan. Her husband was raised in a mixed Brazilian-Catalan family, and they have two daughters. As cross-culture parents, they want to establish family values of our own and embrace multiculturalism. They moved 11,000 km from Taiwan to Barcelona where they are now based. Hsin writes at Nanani World.