Biracial - When a Biracial Child's Color is Different from the Rest of the Family
My four-year old son, Trenton, is biracial
. His biological father left when I was pregnant. The biological father has only seen my son twice since he was born. My son was so young, he doesn't remember him. When Trenton was 5 months old, I started a relationship with a man who later became my fiance. He is white. He has raised my son with me. I am also white. Trenton has only known my fiance as his father.
My fiance and I just had a baby and my son realizes for the first time the difference between his skin and ours. What should I do? How do I explain to a 4-year old biracial child who is being raised by two white parents that his skin is darker? And that his biological dad doesn't come around? He said the other day, "Mommy and daddy love a brown boy." And, "My face is all brown. I'm brown all over." HELP me. Please.
Let me start by acknowledging you and your fiance for your care and concern for Trenton. You are obviously loving parents.
Next, let me say that as the white mother of two biracial children (Native American and white), I understand your fears. I can assure you that with love and sensitivity you can help your son feel that he is part of your family, regardless of the differences in skin color.
As I point out in my book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting, a father is "one who fathers." Although the biological father of your biracial child may have passed on half of his genetics, he is not a father in the true sense of the word. Trenton's father is the man who is raising him. In fact, your fiance is what I refer to as a "real man"—a man who stays and takes care of his family.
It is important to make this clear to Trenton. You need to tell him the truth about his birth father in very simple terms. Tell him that his father had brown skin (so he knows where his brown skin comes from.) Tell him that this man went away and that your fiance is his father now. Refer to the man who walked out of his life by his first name. Trenton's father is the man who is raising him.
Next, you need to understand that before a child can individuate in a healthy way, he must have a sense of belonging to something bigger than himself. This is where family comes in.
What makes a family?
Skin color has nothing to do with it.
So when Trenton says, "Mommy and daddy love a brown boy," say, "Yes, we do. We love our beautiful brown boy and his big, sweet heart." Acknowledge Trenton's growing awareness that he is biracial but at the same time, tell him that your love for each other is what makes you the same. Love is the great equalizer. It transcends all.
It is the sharing of love and care that makes you a family. If the biological father is not around to participate, he is not a father.
In a multiracial family, never tell a multiracial or biracial child that he needs to choose which race he wants to belong to.
As a biracial child who has noticed that no one in the family looks like him, Trenton needs to feel secure, especially since there is a new baby at home. Babies requires a lot more care and attention than four-year olds, so help Trenton feel that he belongs by giving him ways to help care for his new sibling. For instance, he can go get a diaper when the baby needs to be changed. He can sing a song to the baby or lightly stroke the baby's arms when she cries. When the baby coos at Trenton, tell him that is obvious how much the baby loves him. It is essential that his realization that he is different is not coupled with any feelings of abandonment because the baby will be taking up the bulk of your time. Create one-on-one time with Trenton in which he gets your undivided attention. He needs this attention from you and his dad.
You have not mentioned anything about adoption. One way for a biracial child to feel accepted by his family (especially if everyone else is white) is for them to make things legal.
A biracial child isn't either this or that. He is this and that. He is both.
Slowly expose Trenton to the black culture. You will need to find a trusted and caring person of color who can show Trenton what it means to be a black man in the world and from his father, he will learn what it means to be white. In this way, he will learn what it means to express the both aspects of his racial identity.
Do not listen to people who tell you that a biracial child must choose whether he is going to identify himself as black or white. Such advice creates a divided self. To help give you ideas of how you can raise Trenton, I suggest you read my book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting because it explains through inference how I am raising my biracial boys with ideas from both their cultures. It will also open your heart to ideas from another culture—the native culture—which more than any other culture I have encountered, understands the true meaning of child stewardship and what it takes to raise a child to maturity and to lead a life of meaning and purpose as an adult.
About the author:
Laura Ramirez is the author of the multiple award-winning book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting The book combines the most resourceful ideas from the white and native world to teach parents how to raise children to develop their innate strengths and unfold their spiritual nature. The book is a journey of self-discovery for child and parent.
Laura teaches parenting classes via teleseminar, so you can learn from the comfort of your home. To find out more, go to parenting class
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