How To Encourage Your Child To Positively Embrace Their Multi-Ethnicity
Associate With Family And Friends of Both Cultures.
Prepare Foods From Both Cultures.
Create Your Own Family Tree.
A mother to two multi-ethnic children; I do worry about how they will eventually embrace their ethnicity as they mature.
Like most parents, I want my children to be well-rounded, successful, and self-assured individuals.
Sadly, due to external or internal sources, many multi-ethnic children struggle day-in and day-out with a true sense of belonging.
Too often, instead of being encouraged to embrace their multi-ethnicity, many are forced to “choose” one race over the other only to be rewarded with a “sell-out” card from the race not chosen.
To avoid ostracism, some multiethnic children feel forced to live double lives; acting one way in front a particular race and another way before the other. This conflict leads to self-esteem issues as well as a constant battle to find their place in society.
So what’s a parent to do? How does a parent help their child positively embrace his or hers multi-ethnicity?
While there definitely isn’t a quick fix to such a complex situation as this one, there are some things we as parents can do to ensure our multiethnic children are on the right path toward positively embracing their multi-ethnicity.
* Start Young.
As with any skill or life-lesson we want to effectively teach our children, it’s always best to start while they are young.
What better way than to help your child embrace their ethnicity at this age, than through the use of language?
Therefore, from the time they enter into this world; introduce both languages that are native to Mom and Dad, and speak both languages on a daily basis so that it becomes a part of their everyday life.
In addition to speaking both languages, read bilingually written books to your child and play culturally diverse music for them to enjoy.
* Immerse Them Into Both Cultures.
As a norm, people tend to gravitate toward things, people, or ideals that they’ve become accustomed or acquainted with.
Immersing your child into both cultures will definitely help them become more comfortable with both sides of their heritage, as well as build an appreciation for them that much more.
There are several ways to achieve this:
- Local Cultural Festivals
- Family Tree/Photos
- Story Telling
1.) Local Cultural Festivals - While some parents have gone the lengths to take their child to the country of their heritage’s origin, you can bring a little bit of that culture home by attending your city’s local cultural festivals.
Through music and dance, art and crafts, as well as a variety of unique culinary dishes, these festive occasions will not only educate your child about their heritage, they will also help them see that there are others just like them.
2.) Entertainment - Entertainment is another great tool one can use to immerse their child into both cultures. By way of film, television, music and dance, your child will receive a lively education regarding the background of each culture.
Through these avenues, you can show your child what both cultures have to offer them as individuals, as well as what both cultures have to offer society as a whole.
3.) Language - One of the best ways to immerse your child into both cultures is by way of language. Build on the language skills you’ve already established with them from infancy by consistently using both languages in the home, as well as in other surroundings.
4.) Association - Surround your child with friends and family members that are from both cultures. Let them see how they live and encourage an establishing of healthy and close, long-term friendships.
In addition, let them get to know their older relations. It is these whom can relate their successes, their accomplishments, as well as their failures. Such endeavors will help your child see the human face of culture and ethnicity.
5.) Food - Since food is such a great equalizer, introducing a variety of foods from each culture is an excellent tool to help your child positively embrace their ethnicity.
Preparing one-of-kind, exciting, and tasty, culturally inspired dishes as a family, will not only build your child’s appreciation for their multi-ethnicity, it will also build their love for diversity.
6.) Family Trees/Photos - Putting together a family tree, in addition to sharing photos of living and deceased, near and distant family members of both cultures will help effectively immerse your child in each culture as well.
Family trees and photos offer visual stimuli to your child’s diverse backgrounds, as well as to their ancestors and relatives that made their existence possible. These tools will help your child dwell on the richness and beauty of their multi-ethnicity.
7.) Story Telling - Sadly, story telling has all but died out among the more recent generations. So much more than a simple telling of funny or charming anecdotes, story telling is vital to the passing down of and the holding on to treasured family traditions and memories. Therefore, share stories about important traditions or past memories from both cultures. Explain to your child why these stories are so important, the lessons they hold out for them, their origins, as well as what individuals of the family played a key role in the making of the story.
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* Encourage Individuality.
Much like each culture and ethnicity have their own individual styles, foods, music, and traditions, let your child see that individuality is the spice of life.
Encourage them - within reasonable limits - to wear the clothing of their choice, listen to the music of their liking, read the books that inspire them, take up hobbies or activities that they truly enjoy, choose friends from all cultural backgrounds, as well as to share and revel in their individual creativity.
In addition, whether it be through your personal taste in music, art, reading material, hobbies, clothing, or hairstyles, let your own individuality shine through. Through word and deed, ensure that your child understands that the world would be quite a dull place without individuality.
In a similar vein, while encouraging them to embrace their own multi-ethnicity, be sure to impress on them that one background or one culture is not superior to another; rather they are all unique in their own rights and have all made major contributions to society.
* Build Self-Esteem.
Multiethnic children have to face a battle many of other individual will never have to face. The constant questioning regarding what race do they identify with the most will constantly resurface throughout his or lifetime.
Therefore, prepare them for this by building their self-esteem now by:
- Encouraging them to accomplish things no matter who tells them they can’t
- Building them up when others tear them down
- Regularly providing positive affirmations, positive thinking, and positive feedback
- Always let them know how important they are to those that truly matter.
- Encouraging self-reliance through age appropriate responsibilities
- Encouraging and nourishing their individuality and creativity
- Expressing proper and healthy displays of affection
Let them know that inevitably we are all part of the human race; we are all made of flesh and blood; we share the same fears and anxieties; and all want the same things out of life.
Ensure them that their success in life and who they aspire to be is not totally dependent on their race. While their multi-ethnicity deepens and enriches their life, choosing between one race over the other should never be their concern.
Therefore, by helping them positively embrace their multi-ethnicity, simply being proud of whom they are as individuals is what will be the utmost importance to them.
With your backing and constant support, your multiethnic child will have the confidence and self-esteem to make a place for themselves in society.
When questioned as to what race they identify with the most - they can proudly say, “While I hold both cultures dear, I identify with me, myself, and I”.
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