When I was first pregnant, I knew that having a biracial child meant my experience of raising them would be different from someone with a single race child.
With my first baby, I mostly focused on biracial hair, but I quickly discovered there was a lot more to learn.
Now that I’m four kids deep, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of complexities that I don’t inherently know, but that I have to research and talk with my husband about to give my kids the best possible upbringing.
If you’re raising biracial kids, these important points will help you cultivate kids with high self-esteem and a healthy racial and cultural identity!
Understanding Biracial Identity
Racial Identity Development
Developing racial identity is crucial for biracial children!
You need to instill a healthy sense of self-awareness and self-identity in your child. You can do this by allowing them to explore both sides of their racial heritage.
Surrounding your child with family and/or friends who share the other race is very important in helping your child explore and understand their other racial heritage.
If that’s not possible right now, putting your child in a diverse school or daycare, surrounding them with diverse books, diverse toys, and watching shows with diverse characters is a good start.
It’s important for you to have a support system of people who share your child’s other race, because your child will likely experience some form of microaggressions and racism and they’ll need you and their support system to help them and process those events.
In the beginning I was completely unaware of some of the microaggressions aimed at my kids and it took me talking with my friends or coming across it in the research I was doing to discover what was actually happening.
Once I knew what was happening I was better able to respond, and help my children come up with responses to microaggressions they would likely encounter in the future.
When you or your child experiences microaggressions and/or racism it can easily cause you to want to blow up from the anger you’re experiencing.
Trust me, I definitely have had those feelings, but I caution you against acting on that anger as seeing that response may cause your kids to not want to tell you about experiences they have in the future for fear that it will make you upset.
You want to make sure your kids have a safe and nurturing environment so they can express their thoughts and feelings openly.
You can also have conversations around race, culture, and ethnicity in your home which can help them value that being biracial makes them unique.
Related: Books That Feature Biracial Children
If you haven’t already, you’ll want to educate yourself on your child’s other cultural background as this is an important part of fostering a positive self identity and feelings of belonging for them.
Some ways to help your child develop a strong cultural identity are:
- Introducing them to the arts, music, and traditional practices of both cultures
- Teaching them the language of their background(s)
- Celebrating holidays and traditions from both cultures
- Getting to know other multicultural families and engaging in community events that celebrate their cultural backgrounds
When your child is exposed to and understands their cultural backgrounds they’re more likely to embrace their unique heritages and they’re less likely to experience identity issues.
Your child should be allowed to develop their cultural identity in a way that feels meaningful to them, (meaning they may identify more strongly with one of their cultures than the other, or they may identify with both).
Challenges and Triumphs
When you’re raising a biracial child, you’ll likely encounter unique challenges because of the differences in your race and identity.
Like many biracial kids, my kids are going to experience life very differently than I did, and they may also have a different experience than my husband did.
Because of this, certain life experiences can be confusing, difficult, or isolating for them.
Some common challenges your kids may face are:
- Dealing with discrimination and microaggressions
- Navigating and developing their identity
- Dealing with biases within their own family or in the community
It’s essential for you to have an open and supportive relationship with your child so they feel comfortable exploring their identity and discussing their experiences with you.
Discrimination can take various forms, from overt acts of racism to subtle microaggressions.
As I mentioned above, it took me a while to realize that when people would ask me, “is that your daughter?”, it wasn’t because perhaps I looked young or that was a question every new mom was asked.
(Eventually I figured this out when I asked all my other friends with single race children if they were ever asked this and they all said never).
Or when people would make assumptions about my daughter’s hair, (“her hair must take so long to do!” “I bet it’s so hard to do her hair”, “how do you take care of all that hair?!”, etc.) that again, this wasn’t a question my white friends with white kids were asked.
I give these examples because it’s important for you to know when discrimination is happening so you know how to respond and how to support your kids when it happens to them.
To support your child you can help them build their confidence which will prepare them for when these situations arise.
Some steps you can take are:
- Encouraging open communication: Make sure your child feels comfortable discussing their feelings and experiences with you. When they know they can come to you, they’ll be able to better understand and process any incidents of discrimination they face.
- Teach them to advocate for themselves: Help your child develop the skills necessary to be assertive and stand up for themselves when they encounter biased behavior.
- Educate them about their heritage: Encourage your child to learn about and appreciate both sides of their racial background. This knowledge can give them a strong sense of self, making it easier to cope with discrimination.
- Connect with other multiracial families: Join support groups online, or engage with other biracial families in your community. This can provide your child with a safe space to discuss race relations, share experiences, and develop a strong sense of belonging.
Raising Confident Biracial Children
Creating a Supportive Environment
One of the most critical aspects of raising confident biracial children is creating a supportive environment at home.
This starts with ensuring your kids feel loved and valued for who they are.
Again, (I know I sound like a broken record here but it’s really important) be sure to encourage open discussions about race, diversity, and identity to build that strong foundation in your home.
Expose your children to various cultures, languages, and traditions to help them appreciate and celebrate differences in others.
You can do this with diverse books, attending community events, watching movies or TV in other languages or with captions in other languages, and try exploring cultural traditions, (either your child’s or a completely different one) in your home.
It’s also important to teach them about the history of each of their cultural backgrounds.
The more they educate themselves about their unique blend of cultures, the more confident they’ll feel in their own identity.
Encouraging Cultural Exploration
You can explore culture with your kids with these ideas:
- Language: Teach your child the languages of their cultural backgrounds. This can help them connect more deeply with their heritage and give them a sense of pride. For example, if their father is bilingual and speaks both Spanish and English, encourage them to learn Spanish at an early age.
- Traditions: Incorporate family traditions from each culture into your daily life or on special occasions. This can be as simple as cooking traditional meals from both cultures or celebrating various holidays and festivals.
- Arts and Entertainment: Expose your child to diverse forms of art, music, dance, and literature from their cultural backgrounds. You can go to museums, festivals, concerts, or add diverse art into your home.
- Travel: If possible, visit the countries of your biracial child’s heritage to help them experience their roots firsthand. This helps them appreciate their cultural backgrounds. Our family would love to visit Germany and Ghana one day!
Navigating Different Family Contexts
Raising biracial children comes with its unique set of challenges and joys. Let’s look at some different family dynamics and how they can affect your journey.
White Mom, Biracial Child
As a white mom with a biracial child, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed at some point by the responsibility of helping your child navigate their mixed-race identity.
You’re having to look at life with a very different lens than how you experienced things, and a lot of times that means dealing with discomfort, (acknowledging your privilege, becoming an active ally, advocating for your kids/family, addressing discrimination with your family, etc).
Because of how life is for your kids, there will probably be a lot of instances where you ‘didn’t know what you didn’t know’, (ex: people touching your kids hair without permission, asking if you’re their mom, asking if they’re your biological kids, the dangers of police for people of color, etc.).
While these instances will happen, once you know, you need to do the work. It’s essential to educate yourself on racial issues and the experiences of people of color, so you can better understand how to support and advocate for your child.
Here are some other tips to help:
- Take an active role in learning about your child’s racial and cultural background. Don’t leave it only to the parent of color to do this part of the parenting, and don’t wait until your kids come to you to ask questions about race/culture. Start when they’re young!
- Encourage discussions about race, skin color, and cultural differences. Don’t wait to have these conversations until they’re in school because you don’t want them to feel different. You’re not making them feel different, you’re allowing them to be seen!
- Expose your child to diverse role models who share their racial background whenever possible.
- Provide them with books, movies, and other resources that feature biracial characters.
Single Parent Families
For single parents raising biracial children, it’s crucial to foster an environment where your child feels supported and connected to both sides of their cultural heritage. This can no doubt be difficult especially if your child’s other parent isn’t in the picture.
Here are some strategies:
- Form relationships with your child’s extended family, so they can know and learn from their diverse family members.
- Incorporate traditions, holidays, and practices from your child’s other cultural backgrounds.
- Reach out to other single parents or support groups who understand the unique challenges of raising biracial children on your own.
- Connect with people in your community who have the same background as your child.
- The tips above in White mom, biracial child can also work for you.
Although it can be overwhelming, you can definitely raise confident and proud biracial children in single-parent families by creating a strong foundation and support system rooted in understanding their diverse needs.
Addressing Skin Color
Your child’s skin color may be different from you, their other parent, or even their siblings.
This can create self-esteem issues because they may get comments on their skin color or they may hear comments made about their skin color, (they may also hear these comments made about or to their siblings as well).
Often this is seen when one sibling has darker skin and the other has lighter skin.
The comments made about skin color, either directly or within earshot of your child can have far reaching effects.
Here are a few tips to combat this:
- Teach your child that differences in skin color are normal and beautiful.
- Encourage them to express their feelings and experiences about their skin color with you or others they trust.
- Address and challenge any negative comments or stereotypes they may be exposed to, and reaffirm your child’s value and uniqueness. (Daily positive affirmations are a great way to do this!)
There’s a lot of learning that you have to do when you’re raising biracial children, especially if you’re a white parent. (Mostly because your kids will have a different journey through life than you did).
But this work is so necessary to help ensure your kids have a healthy sense of self and positive self-esteem!
These tips will help your children develop a positive, solid racial and cultural identity!