By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
According to a report, the number of multiracial children in the U.S. is increasing: more than 100,000 have been born annually over the last decade, and most interracial families reside in urban areas. Consequently, it is vital for educators and counselors to be aware of and meet the unique requirements of children of mixed race and to encourage their families' efforts to raise them.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that, when multiracial and multicultural children are compared with other children, no difference in the self-esteem, self-acceptance, and number of psychiatric problems is found. However, sometimes children feel singled out and suffer from constant stares, whispers or discriminations.
Children in a multi-racial family might not resemble each other; one of them might look like the father while the other might have taken after mother. Hence, it is difficult for them to digest the fact that their own brother or sister looks so different from them. Physical features, family attachments and support, and experiences with other groups influence racial identity. Parents can help children cope with these pressures by establishing open communication in the family about races and cultures. Do not encourage favoritism within your family, that is dont let one side of the family favor the child resembling their race and ignoring the one who does not.
Children begin to notice differences in physical appearances right from early childhood. School age children begin to structure their multicultural or multiracial personality. As they get closer to puberty, they begin to recognize how their identity influences friendships and their place in society. They may also begin to question any differences they see in their parent's stated beliefs and behavior.
Some of the ways through which parents, teachers and daycare counselors can support multiracial children:
- Help children in answering questions related to their race and heritage. Children are often baffled when they dont know how to explain the color of their skin, texture of their hair or their facial features. Help children deal with racism without feeling personally battered.
- View the multiracial family as a mixed family; do not advocate just one race. This will encourage respect for all the cultures that are a part of the family.
- Find reference books, documentaries, articles and movies that represent multiracial individuals as positive role models, as well as books about the lives of multicultural families.
- Do not encourage or even silently accept situations where the race of one of the parents is either dismissed or looked down upon.
- Acknowledge that children might feel guilty, ashamed or angry because of their mixed ethnicity.
- Establish support networks for your child from the school, grandparents, relatives, neighbors, and the greater community.
Growing up in a multiracial family is an enriching and rewarding experience for most children, provided you deal with it appropriately.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.