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  • Writer's pictureLynn VanderWielen, PhD, MPH

More than Hair

So many parents of mixed kids, especially White Moms of multiracial Black and White Kids (I am in this group!!), are hyperfocused on learning to style and care for their kids’ hair, but push back when suggesting that there are many facets to identity development in addition to elements of one’s physical appearance. While hair may be one visible marker of racial or ethnic heritage, it is not the sole determinant of one's identity.

Mixed race families should be more intentional about identity development beyond just focusing on hair - identity is a complex and multi-faceted concept that encompasses various aspects of a person's being. Let me break it down - Here are a few reasons why mixed race families should prioritize broader identity development:

Embracing a holistic sense of self - Identity encompasses not only physical appearance but also cultural background, family history, language, traditions, values, beliefs, and personal experiences. By celebrating and exploring all aspects of our heritage (including intentional discussion of the role one heritage had in slavery, genocide, forced displacement, etc.), multiracial kids can develop a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of who they are.

Navigating the complexity of multiple cultural identities - Mixed race individuals navigate belonging to multiple cultural identities simultaneously and may experience a sense of duality or belonging (or lack of belonging) to multiple communities. By intentionally exploring and understanding these different cultural identities, individuals can develop a stronger sense of self and a greater ability to navigate and appreciate diverse cultural contexts.

Building resilience and self-esteem - Developing a strong sense of identity can contribute to building resilience and self-esteem, especially when facing societal pressures or stereotypes. When individuals are grounded in a firm understanding and appreciation of their diverse heritage, they are better equipped to confidently navigate their social environments and embrace their uniqueness.

Fostering connection and belonging - By engaging in intentional discussions and activities that explore various aspects of their mixed race identities, families can foster a sense of connection and belonging within the family unit. This promotes open dialogue, understanding, and the sharing of different cultural perspectives, ultimately strengthening family bonds.

Promoting cultural awareness - Understanding and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds helps promote cultural awareness, empathy, and respect for others, which includes learning about cultures and communities that are not our own. This approach encourages a broader appreciation for diversity in society and will nurture our kids’ ability to see the beauty in the cultures, traditions, and perspectives of others.

While hair may be one aspect of a person's identity, it is essential for mixed race families to go beyond hair and intentionally engage in conversations and activities that explore and celebrate the full spectrum of their diverse backgrounds. This approach can contribute to personal growth, family cohesion, and the development of well-rounded individuals who are confident in their multiracial and multicultural identities.

For more intentional discussion of raising confident, celebrated, and self-aware multiracial kids, join the Samahra Community in our app (we have a free version and a subscription version for daily content)! We are a community of intentional parents (like you!) who want to better understand multiracial identity development and how we can support our kids on their identity journeys. The app includes facilitated conversations, daily evidence-based reading, and insight from multiracial adults.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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