What to do with your Mixed-Race Child

In summer of 2015, I quit my job and started this blog to write about my travel adventures. Since then, it has grown to include more in-depth details of life as I have lived and seen it as a Jamaican on a tiny island, and then as a West Indian immigrant in the United States.

This led to several articles on race and race relations, which has garnered a lot of healthy feedback from readers all around the world.

In Response to Queries from Mothers of Mixed Race Children

Loudest of all the voices I’ve heard came from White parents of children of colour, who struggled to raise their children with a fine balance of both worlds. They asked:

What should I do with her hair? Are there any products I can use that worked for you? How do I make sure he appreciates both sides of his heritage?

I don’t have all the answers, but having grown up as the mutt in my multi-racial family, I’ve learned quite a bit. Thus, I’d like to share what I do know with all the non-Black moms, dads, grandparents, and concerned aunts who reached out to learn how best to approach race, when it comes to their Mixed-Race children.

Pay Attention to Representation

Many people believe that minorities’ issues with representation are trivial. Sometimes, I might even agree this is true. However, when it comes to children, representation is important. If a child cannot see himself in the face of the people he admires, he will begin to question that difference over time.

For instance, in Why I HATED my Dolls as a Child, I explained how having an all-White doll collection really made me wonder what was wrong with me. Why did I not look anything like the very things I idolised as the epitome of beauty?

If you live in a family or community with very few Blacks or Mixed-Race kids, this becomes even more important. Buy toys and find movies and books that reflect not just the faces your child will see when she goes out into the world, but also what she will see when she looks in the mirror.

Do not Forge their Racial Identity

A Mixed-Race child does not become Black, simply because one parent is Black, or even if both parents are half Black, each.

This is because a Mixed-Race child is exactly that – mixed –  and they should be treated as such. Forcing the child to deny a part of their heritage may cause problems later on.

Teach your kids that they are both and show them why they should be proud to be both. Let them choose who they want to identify with on their own.

Most people will likely identify with the race they most resemble, as they grow older. However, many well-adjusted Mixed-Race children simply accept that they are two or more great things rolled into one unique person.

Do not Make Race an Uncomfortable Topic

Race and race relations all but dominated the media last year, before feminism seemed to overrun it. But in spite of its prevalence and the dialogue it created, many people refuse to talk about it. In some places, race is almost taboo and it seems impossible to say anything about race without being branded a racist.

As a result, many people become uncomfortable when it comes up, and entertain the grand illusion that if they don’t talk about it, it will just go away. However, silence did not end slavery, or segregation, or do much of anything for the Holocaust either. Sweeping things under a rug hides rather than eliminates an issue – and only for a time.

With that said, a Mixed-Race child may begin to notice their racial differences at as early as three years old. And they will have questions, even if they don’t work up the courage to ask right away.

So create an environment in the home where children can discuss race and ask questions without feeling judged, and without feeling as though they have inconvenienced their parents by asking uncomfortable questions about their identity.

An awkward and discouraging experience with addressing their racial differences may instil that not only is there something wrong with asking, but that their differences make other people uncomfortable when it is addressed and acknowledged.

Teach them your First Language

In some countries, there is often a cultural bias towards people who don’t speak English as a first language, and people who speak English as only one of their first languages. However, if you speak another language, do not allow your child to miss out on the opportunity to learn it.

When that child becomes older, having a second language makes them stand out for many prestigious job positions. Almost all the most successful people I know who had amazing jobs, spoke at least two or three different languages, and got their jobs based on that fact.

Being multilingual often landed them jobs which required international travel, or special projects that required working closely with natives who spoke the other languages they possessed.

While parents should certainly place greater emphasis on teaching their children the language they will be instructed in, children do learn multiple languages with no confusion.

Learn to Manage their Hair

One of the biggest problems many White mothers reached out to me about was their children’s hair, and how to deal with it. One mother related the heartbreaking story of how her son expressed outright hatred for his hair and wished he had “normal” hair like hers, instead.

However, learning to make your kids see their hair as different but “normal” means not fighting with it, and never letting them feel that their hair is a struggle or an inconvenience.

Combing and Detangling

The first step in this is to use combs and brushes which suit their hair type. The less straight a child’s hair is, the bigger the space should be between the teeth in their combs. De-tanglers also tend to get tangled in kinkier hair types, so opt for a soft, smooth brush instead.

To help with de-tangling during a wash, use warm water, a wide-toothed comb, and conditioner. The hair may begin to tangle again after you’ve towelled it dry, so make sure you moisturise before combing or styling.

In fact, hair should always be moisturised before combing. You can try spritzing the hair with water, or using leave-in conditioners.

Washing

When it comes to hair care, one of the biggest mistakes White mothers make is washing curly and kinky hair as often as they do straighter hair.

Doing this strips the natural oils from the hair and leaves it dry, wiry, and easily tangled. Curly hair should only be washed twice per week, and for kinky hair, only once per week.

If you’re worried about keeping their hair clean, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to keep hair clean without washing with shampoo. This includes dry shampooing and co-washing.

Experiment with Brands

When it comes to Black and Mixed-Race hair, there is no one brand that works for all of us. Different hair-types respond differently to certain brands and lines of shampoo, no matter how similar our hair may look on the surface, and no matter how closely related the individuals compared may be.

For instance, when I still wore my kinks lose, the only brand that made my hair manageable made my mom’s hair a complete mess. Thus, I made every attempt to buy only that brand, and she did everything to avoid it.

Keep in mind also that brands which claim to be made specifically for people of colour are not always the best option. After all, not all women of colour have kinky hair. Asian women and Hispanics are women of colour too – ads can be deceiving.

Seek out Professional Help

Unless you have Black hair yourself, trying to comb and style this hair-type can become a confusing and tiresome task. If this becomes the case, hire a professional who does have experience with this hair-type, to do it. Virtually every corner of the world has hair salons for coloured hair (and I don’t mean dyed).

Do a quick search on Google, or you can also check out shops which boast backgrounds in African, Jamaican, or Dominican roots. They are usually the best suited for handling this hair-type. While you wait, feel free to ask the stylist for advice you can take home with you.

Try to avoid suggestions to alter the child’s hair with chemicals or heat, such as relaxing the hair or routinely flat ironing it. While this certainly makes the hair more manageable for you, for your child it reinforces that their hair needs to be straight to be suitable.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the occasional flat-ironing. Teaching them the different ways they can handle their hair is just as important.

Every year, interracial families becomes a more common sight in America and across the globe. This creates the perfect opportunity for families to learn about each other’s differences from not just a cultural, but a physical standpoint as well.

The growing trend helps us to transcend cultural barriers, and to appreciate each other’s differences (and similarities) as a part of who we are as unique and wholesome beings.

If you believe there’s any tip I’ve missed that mothers could find useful, feel free to fill in the blanks in the comments. We’re all here to learn from each other, and comments are always welcome.

Photo Credit for Featured Image: Javcon117*

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24 Comments Add yours

  1. “many well-adjusted Mixed-Race children simply accept that they are two or more great things rolled into one unique person,” what a lovely and profoundly true sentiment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I truly believe that that’s the best way to handle diversity in a family, but many parents try to make the child identify as just one thing.

      Like

      1. That is,sad, they should come to my house :).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it is. I’m sure you’d “fix” them right up lol

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Man oh man I wish my step-mom had read your blog when I was a kid – or even really, cared about the state of my hair. While it’s not kinky curls, its curly, super thick, dry, frizzy, tangly, and so on and so forth. As a kid she’d constantly make me get hair cuts that made me look like I belonged in a 70’s mullet / rock band – and to resolve that she’d have me pile a crap ton of gel into it to cement it into submission. I can’t tell you how many combs she broke in my hair, and how many brush-handles she snapped. How many teary mornings I had as she attempted to rip through my hair.

    As an adult, I’ve finally grown to love my hair. With proper once a week (only) washing, followed by a setting with argon, coconut, sunflower, and anti-frizz oil – topped off with some curl cream and a towel wrap. THIS, with some heavier curl sculpting gel throughout the week makes my head happy 🙂 Also, I don’t even own a comb or brush anymore. As you said, keeping things moisturized makes all the difference.

    Aside from hair (which I’ll yap about for days). I really can identify with the topics of representation, just thinking about my own experiences. While I am half Indigenous, I don’t look it. I think my whole life I’ve literally had two people ask if I “had Indian in me, because of my slanty eyes and big cheekbones” (gee, thanks… I sound like a squinting chipmunk). So, growing up on the reservation, unless you knew me you thought I was white, and thus treated pretty poorly and as an “outsider”. Sometimes, even those who knew me said I wasn’t “real” because I look just like a white-girl. During all of that time, it really would have been nice to have some exposure and/or talks from my parents about being mixed, to know there were others out there like me, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always amused by the fact that you had such a similar experience in spite of such a vastly different racial mix. It goes to show how similar we all are, if we stop to find and share those similarities.

      I’m glad you can verify that hair types like yours and mixed and/or black hair should not be washed too often. My friends with straighter hair washed theirs every 2 or 3 days and wondered how the hell I went a week without washing. They had no idea how to care for hair like mine.

      I think it would have been pretty beneficial for you back then if you’d been able to talk more openly about race, for sure. I never really did with my mom until I was much older.

      Even if it’s not to complain or to talk about discrimination, mixed kids will want to know why they don’t look like either parent. That’s the dilemma of being a biracial child.

      Thanks again for dropping in. Always such a pleasure bouncing ideas between each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You know, I’ve always heard that curly hair is generally just dry hair. and I think there’s some good merit to that – I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with curly hair that was naturally greasy. Now maybe it was greasy cuz they had too much stuff in it – but not on it’s own. And with that, I’ve just found with my hair that it’s far less dry, and far more easy to manage when it’s “a little dirty”

    I think you’re absolutely right about there being a lot more similarities between people if they would just stop to share them and/or recognize them. My grandma always had a saying for this, and I think it’s quite true: “We are all the same, we just have an infinite number of ways to express that sameness.” Smart lady, she was.

    Sometimes when people are uncomfortable or maybe even don’t quite understand something – the reaction is to deflect and try to minimize the issue. Fact of the matter is, the hate acts that are driven by racism, even down to something so small as clutching your purse when walking past a young black man – why that has nothing to do with words, or something being spoken into existence, You don’t have to speak something for it to exist. If we never said one word about the Moon, it would still be there – except for maybe it would be called “that big changing shape rock thing in the sky that shall not be named” (Lol)

    Racism and race issues is something that is learned, not just through words but through actions. Look at a small child (2 years or younger). A small child loves, regardless of race, creed, color, or even species. A small child even loves the most nasty looking bug. It’s not until they become aware of their surroundings, and start watching and absorbing their family’s actions and words that they start to judge and behave differently. They see mom freaking out at that cool bug and start to freak out at bugs, and so on and so forth.

    Race issues and racism are born of not just words and speaking – but absorbed and reenacted by our actions as well.

    Like

    1. I know curly and kinky hair are naturally drier than wavy and straight hair, but I don’t think I ever heard that the dryness was the cause of that. I was told it’s the coil of the hair at the roots. But I’m sure there is some truth to what you say as well.

      All my White friends are pretty vocal about racism and race relations, even the pmore privileged ones who you would think wouldn’t give a fig. So your guess is as good as mine… We all handle things differently, I suppose.

      You are right though. Words do not speak racism into being. We teach it to our kids, on BOTH sides. I’ve seen Black parents instruct their kids to stick to their own kind, maybe out of protection and maybe out of pure racism. Who knows?

      I just wish we were better as a society at communicating across each others cultural lines. There is really no reason for the invisible lines of segregation that we like to put up.

      And I hope my blog helps to make people obey those lines a lot less.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I may have gotten my words a bit jumbled around. I didn’t mean to imply hair is curly because it’s drier hair – Only that curly hair tends to be more dry in texture than straight hair 🙂

        I’m always teetering on my opinions about racism, the more deep you go into all the different subtle queues. I think a part of it is, having grown up around so much of it and having been subject to a lot of bigotry – I never want to offend anyone, which I think tends to sometimes hesitate my opinions. What I mean by that is sometimes a black friend may feel they were slighted by someone in a public place because of their ethnicity – and I didn’t see it. It always leaves me wondering if I didn’t see it because it wasn’t actually there and maybe it was a bit of their own prejudices hyping up…. Or did I not see it because I’m oblivious? (My friends will often tell you I live under a rock, protected by my own bubble – this is pretty accurate)

        I never say anything or delve into it, for fear of offending – but sometimes I do think that at times racism can be “spoken into existence” through the old saying of “if you look hard enough for anything, you’re going to find it”. If we try hard enough, we can convince ourselves of anything and find the evidence to support it.

        That being said though, racism as a living, breathing, existing thing is far too real. I’ve seen and experienced enough of it to know that.

        And I think your blog is fabulous – I love reading each and every one of your posts. You see things with your eyes wide open, and that’s a rare commodity these days, it seems.

        Like

      2. That sounds about right then. That’s what I’ve always heard too, that the less straight hair is, the less it retains moisture and oils.

        I have experienced the same thing, where Black friends around me feel slighted by someone on account of race and I don’t see it. I have one friend who is constantly feeling slighted on account of her race. I started telling her to picture the person is black doing the same thing. Would it seem like it was just a racial thing or a dislike then? That always catches her off-guard. So I can agree with that, but that’s a symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself if you catch my drift.

        And thank you. I’m glad you enjoy my blog. 😚

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Will says:

    Hello, I check your blogs daily. Your humoristic
    style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!

    Like

    1. Thank you Will! I do put a lot of time and effort into making this blog as entertaining as it is informative. I’m glad you get my sense of humour and that you’ve enjoyed my work. Come by again!

      For some reason WordPress automatically marked this comment as spam, so I’m only just seeing it. So sorry!

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on TwoToneTheArtist and commented:
    Featured in this post where Alex provides advice to White parents and guardians of Black and Mixed-Race children, who reached out to her a few weeks prior.

    Like

  6. Hi Alexis, I just wanted to comment and say that I really really enjoy reading your articles. They are oh so pertinent and in a lot of ways I can relate to you… Very inspirational. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Mrs! Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found my articles informative and relatable. Even happier to have inspired you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Goddess In Exile says:

    Hi,

    How do you suggest white parents tackle the subject of institutionalised racism?

    I ask because even though you say that “mixed” children are “mixed”, many in society would disagree solely on the basis that if the child has non white skin they will be perceived as black and treated as such. Racism, as I’m sure you’re aware, permeates all aspects of western society. What do you think white parents should do to prepare for such experiences that their children will encounter, ie; racial profiling, stop and search, etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great question, and a good point. I’m well aware of that because I deal with it every day. In Jamaica, I’m Mixed. When I come to America and say that, Black people understand, but most White people give me “that look”.

      That said, it’s not a good idea to get your child into the habit of letting society brand him or her as anything. Next he or she will be branded as uneducated as a thug or criminal or a twerking party girl or any other bad Black stereotypes in America.

      Teach them to appreciate both sides of their heritage, for better or worse. However, you should also prepare them for the fact that society will not agree. Teach them that it’s not their job to convince society, any more than it’s society’s job to convince them of who they are.

      It is also worth noting that Black people often do not consider Mixed people to be Black in the “real” sense. So if you teach the child to identify as only Black, they may find themselves an outcast from both White and Black communities.

      I identify as a Mixed Black woman, and it took me a long time to draft that identity.

      Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Goddess In Exile says:

    I like your energy sis, and identify with what you’ve said about being outcast from both black and white. I consider myself black because that is all I know, I’ve never known my white heritage because I was raised by my Bajan grandmother. My son is black though very light skinned, and identifies as black too. I think you’ve put forward some very valid points although it is a fact that society will lable children and people as they see fit, it’s practically unavoidable, but you’re intent and sentiment is beautiful and practical. I’ll be sharing a piece on my own experience of mixed race ness tonight, maybe you’ll relate to some of it. Big love Goddess ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s important to teach kids both sides, but as teens and adults we can choose what to identify with. If you and your son identify as Black then that’s your choice. Just don’t let society box you into anything.

      Send me a link when you get your post ready. I’d like to read it. 🙂

      And thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment and share your story with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Goddess In Exile says:

        Hey Alexis,
        I have written about being mixed race from my perspective, I hope you find it insightful.

        http://www.goddessinexile.com/2017/02/02/mixed-blessings/

        Big love x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for sharing. Had a tough time getting a comment up, but I think it went through.

        Like

  9. tyronepierre says:

    Thanks for sharing this, I am due to have my first child of mixed heritage this year, I found this post do inspiring. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome Tyrone. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. All the best on the fatherhood journey ahead. This is definitely the time to ensure kids understand and embrace diversity. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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