Belonging is important to children’s mental health.
Unfortunately, children are often excluded, bullied, treated unfairly, or discriminated against because of their racial or ethnic background. That’s why it is important to help children develop a strong identity that embraces your family’s ethnicity and culture.
Racial-ethnic socialization is how a child learns about their race and cultural background. This means proudly teaching them about your different family traditions and strengths, but also preparing them for the different barriers and obstacles they may face.
Why should you teach your child about racial, ethnic and cultural differences, especially when they’re young?
Children who grow up without learning about their background are more likely to believe negative stereotypes about their race or ethnicity, and they may be less resilient than their peers who strongly identify with their race or culture.
It is also important to discuss racism and discrimination! If you choose not to discuss it with your child, you miss opportunities to arm your child with knowledge and techniques to help them emotionally prepare for, and respond to, difficult circumstances in the future.
What are the benefits of teaching children about their traditions and background?
Research has shown that racial-ethnic socialization for children of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds is related to:
- A stronger self-identity
- Higher levels of self-esteem
- Better academic performance
- Less depression
- Less anxiety
- Less threatened by racism or discrimination
How can I help my child embrace their culture?
Talk with your child openly and honestly about your family’s race, ethnicity and culture, using age-appropriate words and examples.
- Practice cultural holidays and traditions together.
- If you come from a culture that speaks a different language than English, use that language with your child. Include books, movies, and music in your family’s language.
- Play culturally significant music for your child.
- Have your child help you cook dishes that are culturally important to you.
- Read picture books to your child that positively highlight differences in skin tones, hair textures, etc.
- Watch movies and read books featuring characters who look like your family members. The American Psychological Association and The Conscious Kid provide recommendations.
- Share personal stories of your family and community that make you proud.
- Hang artwork on your walls featuring people who are representative of your race or culture.
- As your child gets older, talk about prejudices that they may face. Share personal examples.
- Have mock conversations, imagining someone else’s point of view, to help your child appropriately address discrimination if they are targeted.
- Talk about the importance of respecting everyone, no matter their race or ethnicity.
These ideas will help your children develop pride in your family’s identity and pass along your love for your culture!