How Multiracial Families Can Preserve Black Culture for Their Children

Almost one in five Black people marry partners of a different race or ethnicity. These tips can help children in multiracial families maintain a healthy connection to their Black identity.

Multiracial family with Black woman in green shirt, white man in white shirt, and two children

Interracial marriage is an ever-growing trend in the Black community. Analysis from the Pew Research Center shows that it is nearly three times more common today than in 1980, with almost one in five Black people marrying partners of a different race or ethnicity. When these couples have families, they might find there are new things to navigate, especially around culture.

In multicultural families, preserving Black culture is essential for children to develop a healthy identity. However, it can be challenging to maintain Black traditions and identity in multiracial families without an intentional effort to preserve Black culture. This imbalance can cause multicultural children to feel estranged from their roots and lead to adverse mental health outcomes.

Three experts weigh in on the most effective ways Black parents can foster a healthy connection between their children and their rich cultural heritage.

Start Communicating Early

Amira Johnson, a psychotherapist and clinician at Berman Psychotherapy, underscores the importance of introducing children to Black culture as early as possible. Johnson says cognitive development begins during ages zero to two years old. "This is a vital time in a child's life as they learn how to connect mentally, physically, and emotionally with the world around them," she says. "Child development is a continuous and interactive process."

Dr. Anjali Ferguson is a culturally responsive psychologist specializing in racial trauma and its mental health effects on children and families. She encourages parents to introduce culture and tradition early. "Children start to notice differences in race as early as 4-6 months of age and usually become curious and want to have conversations about differences once they develop the language to do so, around 2-4 years of age," she says.

Use Tools To Help Children Connect With Their Roots

Parents can use a number of different tools to help teach their children about Black culture. Shawnessa Devonish, a national board certified counselor and licensed clinical professional counselor of Rejuvenated Minds, suggests ways parents can help their children bond with Black culture. She says incorporating culturally diverse toys, books, television shows, and other items regularly can be very helpful in efforts to connect children with their roots.

Still, it's not enough to introduce the tool—consistency is key, and it's helpful to introduce children to different facets of Black culture incrementally. Johnson recommends a slow and steady approach. "Gradually include elements of your culture into the child's daily life. Once they are old enough and able to understand, start sharing stories of family history," she says. "The goal is to not leave your child in the dark about their culture."

Be Mindful of Traumatic Aspects of Black History

It's important to approach painful parts of Black history with sensitivity to your child's ability to understand them. Johnson explains that discussions about colonialism and slavery can devastate young children. She says that parents should approach these conversations in a way that does not overwhelm youngsters and that it's beneficial "to start with one's own history and the correlation between personal and family history with the Black experience holistically."

Dr. Ferguson adds that it's important for parents not to avoid difficult conversations. "The reality is that children are noticing differences and will learn about these historic events eventually," she says. "It is important to create a safe space for them to process the many feelings that come with these discussions. This helps foster empathy and understanding of systemic inequalities with the hopes of promoting a new generation of change-makers."

Encourage Healthy Identification With Black Culture

Johnson says cultivating a connection between your child and their roots helps give them solid ground. She suggests using multimedia to help children develop a healthy sense of self. "Encouraging your kids to watch tv shows, movies, and follow social influencers who resemble them aids in their feeling of belonging," she says. "Once they are at a point of confidence within themselves, no one can knock them down."

Another way Black parents can preserve Black culture is by encouraging multicultural children to connect with their family of origin. Devonish says that multicultural families could communicate with and visit relatives, attend family activities and events, and share photos and educate about family members to connect with culture.

Get Non-Black Parents Involved Too

Johnson stresses the importance of non-Black parents educating themselves about Black culture and history. She recommends learning about everyday things like how to care for textured hair. She says, "Just taking that extra step to make sure your child does not feel excluded from something that is a part of them—and in turn, you, by association—is super important for healthy relationship building."

Dr. Ferguson points out that children from multicultural backgrounds often experience feelings of alienation. However, parents can counter this by embracing intersectionality as an identity and recognizing that their children are culturally plural. "Embrace that [your] child represents all cultures that make up their household and that they belong in each of those cultures as firmly as someone who is not multiracial," she says. "This means that parents are open and willing to learn about the less familiar culture and intentionally apply those traditions and principles in the home."

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