Regardless of whether a blended family is formed by birth or through adoption, the parents of such families may face unique challenges, especially if they are raising children from two or more distinct cultures. More specifically, in trying to ensure that one child remains connected to their culture of origin, these parents may accidentally cause their other children to feel invisible in the home. Fortunately, there are several steps that parents of blended families can take to prevent this, including exploring a variety of cultures with the family, communicating openly, and fostering unique experiences for each child.
Explore All Cultures — Not Just Cultures of Origin
If you are a parent of a child from a different race or culture, then you have likely been told that you should connect your child with other members of their racial/cultural community. Although this is certainly good advice — it is always healthy for children to have role models that share their cultural background — focusing intensely on your child’s culture of origin may cause your other children to feel excluded.
Therefore, instead of exclusively interacting with one culture or another, give your children the opportunity to explore a variety of cultures together. Trying foreign foods, visiting cultural festivals, and listening to music from different regions are all great ways to teach your children respect for all cultures and ethnicities, including their own. Ultimately, fostering this attitude within your home will help all members of your blended family feel appreciated.
Maintain Open Communication
Open communication is always vital for creating a healthy family dynamic, and this is especially true in blended families. As your children grow up and start questioning their identities and their roles in the world, be sure to engage them in open, age-appropriate dialogue. For example, although they may find it helpful to identify the differences between themselves and others, prompt them to explore the similarities and connections as well.
Additionally, be sure to discuss issues of race and culture with them, particularly as they grow more aware of global racial dynamics. The world is a diverse, complex place, and while exploring that with your child may be scary, starting sooner rather than later will help you foster a sense of empathy and cultural curiosity with your child. Most importantly, be sure to practice active listening with all of your children, as they will be able to guide you towards ways you can make them feel safe and loved. Children are quite good at advocating for their physical, emotional, and mental needs--all parents need to do is listen and respond accordingly.
Offer Children Varied Experiences
Finally, in addition to exploring various cultures with your family and practicing open communication, give your children opportunities to explore their unique strengths. Whether your children are interested in sports, art, music, or any other age-appropriate activities, be sure to encourage their interests and celebrate their successes. Not only will this allow your children to gain confidence through skill mastery, but it will also help them engage with communities of like-minded individuals.
Growth is all about connection, and while cultural connections are certainly important, friendships with like-minded individuals are equally important. By helping your children surround themselves with diverse, welcoming individuals, you will help ensure that every member of your family feels seen, appreciated, and loved.