We recently started a series on Multicultural Familia called Reader Q&A. You, the readers, can send in your questions (anonymously, if preferred) to be published.
Our readers and writers will respond with their best answers and hopefully shed some light on your questions about race, religion, parenting, relationships and more. We hope that this new series will help all of us to grow and learn more each other, so don’t be afraid to share. More often than not, someone else has the same question and your asking would be allowing them to find the answers that they’re also seeking.
Submit your own question:
Q: How should I talk to my child about race?
Hi there! I want to start off by saying que me encanta tu web page, and FB posts.
I’m 1/2 Puerto Rican and 1/2 Ecuadorian, born in NY and raised in PR since I was a teenager until adulthood. So I really identify myself as a Puerto Rican. I’m married to a Black man, and of course we have a handsome, smart 3 1/2 yr. old. We live in a small college town in South Carolina, predominantly Black and we do belong to a Mommy/Kiddie play group with some Black and White children. At daycare he’s the only mixed kid.
In an effort to teach my son where he comes from I made this “heritage board” (see pic above). We went on from where he was born, where Mami and Papi were born; we put pics of us up, and glued some other pics of maps, and things typical to the region (flags, mango from PR, Tainos, Palmetto tree from SC, etc.)
When explaining to him that Mami was Latina and that Papi was Black… making him Black and Latin, he laughs and says “Momma, my shirt has black lines not me!” I laughed too, and left it there. This just comes to show that my child is “color blind” he doesn’t see Black, White, or any other color in people.
So my question to you is how do I go about showing my child the difference between him and others, or should I just wait until he’s older? I don’t want him to get hurt one day when someone calls him something mean for being bi-racial (or in this case multi-racial). As you can see in the pictures, he clearly doesn’t look black either. He has more of my skin tone.
He’s such a happy, well rounded little boy, and I want him to be proud of where he’s coming from.
Do you have any advice or suggestions? Thank you so much in advance for taking the time to read this.
~ Frances Diaz-Evans
A: Teach them at their own pace & be ready to answer the tough questions.
Hey Frances. :) Thanks so much for your question. Let me start off by saying first that I love your heritage board! What a great idea! I also have a three and a half year old, so I totally get what stage your son is at.
I think what I’ve noticed is that toddlers don’t quite get the social concept of race. My daughter notices daddy’s darker hair, eyes and skin, but she doesn’t identify us or herself by social terms like “black”, “white”, “Latino”.
For now, I would keep doing what you’re doing by instilling pride in your child by highlighting his heritage and by also answering questions about the differences in skin color, hair, eyes, etc. with positive comments about how beautiful / useful / special each of our differences are.
Once your child is ready to learn about “race” and social terms like “black” and “white”, you’ll know, because I’m sure he’ll start asking you questions about it. My suggestion is to be prepared for these questions and address them as soon they come up. Kids will understand and adjust better if you are able to give them what they need, precisely when they need it.
I think that the problems with identity and how to talk about race come when parents ignore these questions, so you’re definitely on the right track by preparing and being open to giving him all he needs to form a well-rounded view of the race topic and his own personal concept of identity. ♥
There are also lots of great children’s books from Lee & Low and similar publishing companies that help teach children about topics revolving around race, so please do look around.
I’ve written about this topic a few times and so has one of our contributors, so I’ve included some posts here that I think will add more detail to this discussion about how to both instill pride in your child’s personal heritage and identity, as well as lead him in important discussions about race.
I hope this helps!! And please keep us posted on your progress! Thanks for reaching out Frances!
~ Chantilly Patiño
Useful posts about parenting & race:
Do you have some advice for Frances or questions of your own? Please share with us in the comments below.
Our readers and writers will respond with their best answers and hopefully shed some light on your questions about race, religion, parenting, relationships and more…that can help all of us all to grow.Submit your questions HERE.Follow along HERE.
Latest posts by Reader Q&A Series (see all)
- Reader Q&A: How should I talk to my child about race? - March 29, 2012
- Reader Q&A: What’s Up With Labels? - February 27, 2012