How I overcome the challenges of raising mixed-race children
By Mita Mistry
16th June 2018

My son aged 10 asked me: "Mummy, we are all human from one race, when will the world realise that we are all equal?"

I would have loved to say "soon" but I knew I would be lying. Raising mixed-raced children brings its own, different challenges.

While they are living proof that different races can co-exist peacefully, it's easy to forget this wonderful message in a world where hate and division are visible everywhere, where countries, races and cultures are in constant conflict.

Struggling with aspects of identity is natural and normal for anyone. British Asians can also feel displaced in their country of ethnic origin, because they are not necessarily attuned to all customs / language / culture / humour.

It is no different for mixed-race children flitting between two heritages. I recently met an Asian albino client who feared going to Asian events for years owing to people pointing their fingers asking, “Is she English, what is she doing here?" She suffered mental health issues largely contributed by colourism.

Developing identity and self-acceptance in childhood takes time for anyone and may remain challenging throughout adulthood.

So how can parents help combat these challenges?

Parents can instil self-worth and self-confidence in children by creating openness about race, making them feel it's OK to talk about it. They are not Caucasian by default and no matter what shade of white/brown they are, they are just as vulnerable to prejudice.

Being colour-blind will not help them identify racial discrimination or teach them how to deal with it. This does not imply they should be paranoid of every white person being racist of course.

The Caucasian parent can also help by demonstrating non-racial bias and inclusivity of all cultures. Naturally he/she will not have experienced racial prejudice so a greater effort to understand is essential.

Parents can help children avoid identity issues by not overexposing differences but respect each other’s cultural heritage, one is not superior over the other. Understanding and unity between cultures imparts a greater sense of self-awareness and confidence allowing children to grow with self-esteem within their own skin and in the presence of all races without feeling outcasted.

Belonging to more than one racial group is a beautiful gift that enriches us, offering the opportunity to take the best of all cultures.

The challenge of raising confident children with a sense of belonging is real for most parents, awareness, education and greater unity through diversity and inclusivity will help instil self-esteem. Through love, understanding and positive support ALL children will naturally find their place in this world.

Children will be curious about their heritage too. Mine wanted to learn Gujarati and love all things Bollywood. I hadn’t even watched Bollywood films for at least two decades until my daughter insisted on learning a Bollywood dance to perform at my brother’s wedding.

Now they are a part of our family life.

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