As parents, the ability to talk with our kids about race can be very challenging. Over the summer, I had a chance to talk with KSL Radio about the term “transracial” as it related to a popular story of the fallout and national conversation about race, when a white woman chose to identify as a black woman for professional and personal reasons. In the radio interview I addressed the term transracial as an adoption term only and I discussed the history of “Passing” in a America. What I didn’t get a chance to talk about (because we only had 2 minutes) was how to help parents of children who may hear about being transracial and feel that they, too, identify with another cultural or ethnic group outside of their own.
Click the link below to listen to LaShawn Schultz talk with KSL Radio
Parents may wonder how to address it or whether to ignore it and hope it passes like a rebellious taste in music. You don’t have to be a scholar about race relations in America in order to talk to your child about racial identity. What you do have to be aware of is the relationship you have with your child and the reality of identity development in the life of an adolescent. Adolescence can be a trying time both for the tweenager, the teenager, and their parents and caregivers. This is because identity and the ability to explore it is in a full fledged developmental process. Identity itself is a lifelong process that only begins in adolescence. Our goal in parenting through change is to help our kids navigate the questions that arise from their crises.
While racial identity development is a separate experience reserved for the lived experience from birth of a specific racial or ethnic identity, the discussion of feeling a connection and kinship to a racial group that is not part of your own and only experienced in a social interactions is different. The ability of parents to remember and do the following 3 things will help keep your connection to your child as durable as it is flexible.
- Recognize that a “crisis” is not a bad thing, it is simply an unanswered question or series of questions. It’s okay to explore questions with your child because this builds critical thinking skills.
- Realize that your child bringing the unanswered question to you is as much a compliment as it is a hearing test. Your child wants to know if you’ll hear them and listen when they talk.
- While your child cannot change their racial identity, the relationship you have with them is what will change as you use your ability to talk with them as an emotional connection point. Connection is what allows you to talk with them about race as a social construct and get underneath their questions to reach the desire for emotion and validation that is fueling the questions about their identity in the first place.
The three things are the foundation of your relational connection to your child and will make a big difference in your relationship with them all because of your willingness to understand them.