Fostering A Strong Identity And Self-Esteem In Multiethnic Children

Estimated read time 6 min read

As a multicultural mom, helping my kids develop a strong identity and self-esteem is very important to me. As we know, identity and self-esteem are closely intertwined as they shape the way you perceive yourself and how you define yourself. When it comes to identity and self-esteem in multiethnic children, there are different challenges kids growing up in a multicultural environment have to face as they develop a sense of who they are.

With multiethnic families being on the rise in the United States, it is evident that the younger generation of Americans is the one experiencing this shift in a big way. In the majority of cases, multiethnic kids have parents that are mono-ethnic and haven’t experience the world as their children are. That’s why it is important to understand how we can nurture self-esteem in multiethnic children, to help them have a strong sense of identity and find their place in the world.

Although we have made progress as a society when it comes to people that look ethnically ambiguous, with many being more open to those who are multiethnic, it is crucial that we, as moms, help strengthen identity and self-esteem in multiethnic children so they can be better equipt to rise to the challenges they  have to face in a society where there are still many who don’t understand what it means to be multiethnic.

Developing good self-esteem in multiethnic children, as it happens with any other child, starts very early in life. Feeling loved and accepted is the first way babies develop their sense of self, which is so easy to do as moms when we have a brand new life to care for. As kids get older, the input about who they are comes from others, friends, teachers, relatives and society at large. And because multiethnic kids are often visibly different, it is even more important for us to nurture their identities and create strong self-esteem.

As much as we would love to spare our kids from constant questions and comments, the reality is that we must prepare them to understand that what people say and ask is less about them and more about the person with the questions and comments. Some come out of pure curiosity, others maybe come from an ill intention, but the important thing is for them to have a strong sense of who they are, so no matter the input from the outside they can feel confident in who they are.

In the United States, one of the challenges in nurturing the self-esteem in multiethnic children is that people are socialized by the way they look. As multicultural moms, we know that for multiethnic children appearance only tells part of the story of who they are and, to make them whole, we must nurture and foster everything that makes them who they are with the same amount of care and love.

Although my children are visibly Latino and Dominican, as per how others perceive them, my nieces and nephews fall into the “ethnically ambiguous” category. They either don’t look like one of their parents or are not perceived as Latinos. Because of my experience with them and close friends with the same scenarios, there are a few things moms can do to foster healthy self-esteem in multiethnic children.

5 Ways To Nurture Identity
And Self-Esteem In Multiethnic Children

  • Create a multicultural environment. Make sure to take your children to festivals and events where people from other cultures and countries of origin are present. Making sure that they not only interact with people from the groups they belong to but also have an opportunity to learn and appreciate the beauty of what’s different. That will help them not only to accept and interact with others better but will also build confidence in their own background, appearance, and culture.

  • Don’t guilt them for their choices. One of the advantages of multiethnic children is that they can identify with all or only one of their backgrounds. As kids develop, they can tend to identify with the culture and ethnicity of one of their parents. Avoid making them feel guilty if they self-identify with your spouse’s culture instead of yours, or if they choose to identify more with the American culture, in the case both parents come from other countries. Children have to feel accepted for who they are, and how they perceive themselves, providing support is a huge part in nurturing strong self-esteem.

  • Empower them to face racism. Make sure to prepare your child to deal with their emotions, and to be strong when they encounter racism.  Sadly, for many kids, racism will come from people that share one of their backgrounds. They tend to feel in the middle when it comes to issues of racism between the groups they belong to. Let your children know that racism has to do with the people that discriminate them and it has nothing to do with who they are at their core. Empower them to call out instances of racism and to be emotionally strong to overcome the feelings they may experience if they are personally the victims of discrimination.
  • Use the resources at your disposal. As moms, we are aware of the importance of representation. For ethnic minorities, it takes more work to provide those cultural references to our kids. That makes it even more important for us to be intentional in exposing our kids to movies, books, history, plays, and even parties, that show them positive examples and role models of people that look like them and have the same or similar background as your children. As a Dominican and Afro-Latina, I exposed my kids to everything that has to do with the Caribbean, Dominican culture, the Latino culture at large, Black Latino culture, and Black American culture. I buy dolls/characters that are diverse, with different complexions and backgrounds. The more your child feels he lives in a multicultural, diverse society, the more self-assured he’ll become.

  • Redefine what it means to have your background. Even if your child doesn’t look like you, you can point out which traits she possesses that are common to your culture. Teach her/him to cook and enjoy traditional foods that will help the child connect with the culture and traditions beyond their appearance. Show your child that there is more than one way to be from your background. Personally, I don’t like how people are described to be “half-and-half”, I often tell my niece that she is not half anything. She is fully Dominican and fully American. Human beings are whole, and multiethnic people have the right to fully claim each one of the things that make them who they are.

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1 Comment

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  1. 1
    Kirsis Hernández-Guzman

    I love the concept of human being are a whole, and Iike what you have said to your niece, she is fully Dominican and fully American. This is a strong point to help
    building selfesteem and selfconfidence in children raise in a multicultural society.

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