A Biracial Child’s Self-Esteem: 10 Effective Steps
What is self-esteem in a child? Self-esteem is how a child feels about and perceives self. It is that part of the self-concept in which we judge our own competence in comparison to some internalized standard or expectation.
Is the developmental process for the biracial child different from the monoracial child? The psychological and emotional stages that each child passes through are quite similar for the most part. Levels of self-esteem are a result of the variables involved in raising a child.
One significant difference between the biracial child and the monoracial child is that a monoracial child has a racial/ethnic group they can readily identify with, be accepted into and by that group. A biracial child is a combination of both parents and racial/ethnic groups, yet are different from both parents, as well as most of their friends.
At about age three, a child becomes aware of racial differences and skin color, and learns labels and emotional responses associated with various ethnic groups, including their own. The challenges that occur for the biracial child during this period are the same as for the monoracial child, except the biracial child must also deal with a society reluctant to accept a racially mixed child.
American society categorizes individuals on the basis of skin color, myths, outdated theories, and stereotypes. A biracial child is forced by society to identify exclusively with one race, almost always the “minority” race, thereby denying the existence or significance of both of the child’s heritages.
America has its first “African American President,” yet Barack Obama is biracial, but is identified as Black, only.
A biracial child is sometimes rejected by their extended families, either by the “minority” side or the White side, or sometimes both. Forty years ago, researcher Alba stated,
Although several researchers have investigated the development of non-Black racially mixed persons, little attention has been given to children of Black parents and White parents. The racial identity development of these mixed-race children may be particularly complex because these children belong to one racial group that has been positively valued by society and another that has been devalued. Such children are often confronted with a double bind, and they learn to calculate quickly the social mathematics of being Black versus White.
While much more research has been conducted on biracial children of a Black parent and a White parent, the same predicament holds true; we need only look to the racially charged police shootings of African American men and women of late.
An African American president is a great stride in society’s development; however, much work still needs to be done with regards to our attitudes of people of mixed race.
Ten things one can do for the development of healthy self-esteem in a biracial child:
- Validate a biracial child’s awareness and reality of being, more often than not, a different color or shade than both parents;
- Discuss openly and honestly, in age appropriate terms, these differences and that the child is loved by and a part of both parents;
- Honor the biracial child’s unique racial identity;
- Explain to a biracial child that others may or may not accept the fact they have parents that are two different colors, but emphasize that it is okay and natural to have two parents of different colors;
- Let the biracial child know that they bear a legitimate claim to both races, despite the erroneous messages society propagates;
- Let the biracial child know that it is not a choice; they do not have to choose one color, or in effect, one parent over the other;
- If and when possible, expose the biracial child to both sides of their extended family;
- Incoporate positive biracial role models into the biracial child’s experience;
- As parents, openly and honestly discuss your own racial, ethnic, and cultural beliefs and values and gain insight into how your own ethnicity influences your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors;
- Finally, parents, be a united front for your child!
Successful navigation of the various developmental stages requires input from many sources. Research confirms that parents have the most influence in developing a child’s self-esteem. With praise and limit-setting, physical, emotional, intellectual nurturing, and unconditional love, a child can flourish with a healthy sense of self, whether biracial or monoracial.
© 2016 Patricia D. Johnson, Psy.D., LMFT
This is intended to offer general and educational information only and does not provide a prognosis or diagnosis. Individual issues may differ from these broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed with a professional within a therapeutic context.