Counseling Issues and Multiracial Families
Counseling Issues that can
affect Multiracial Families
Signs of Racially-Based Struggles
[found] in [some] Multiracial Families
All families, regardless of race, encounter
challenges and stressors, but there are a
variety of unique racially-based issues and
struggles that tend to confront Multi-Racial families.
To assess if your family may be grappling with
any of these, consider the list of questions below.
"Who am I?"
A core struggle for Mixed-Race people is how to
define themselves racially, which is influenced by
a host of factors including physical appearance,
family values, geographic location, etc.
Does anyone in your family, especially children or
adolescents, have difficulty defining themselves
racially, and experience persistent confusion, anxiety,
distress, or irritability when posed with this question?
"Whose side are you on anyway?"
Parental conflict sometimes creates "sides" that
kids have to choose between, and in Multi-Racial
families, this pressure can be racialized.
[When] Nea's father (whose is White) and her
mother (who is Black and Native American) argue
Nea feels torn between them, including racially.
According to Nea, "I'm afraid if I'm too in touch
with my Black and Native roots my dad will think
I'm rejecting him and siding with my mom,
and if I'm too white my mom will think I'm
rejecting her and siding with my dad."
Are there parental conflicts in your family that,
directly or indirectly, create "sides" and do
the "sides" extend to racial issues as well?
When the Misdeeds of One are Held Against All
Sometimes the hurt that a loved one causes
is generalized to an entire racial group.
Christina (who is White) and Carlos
(who is Black and Latino) recently divorced
after Christina fell in love with another man.
Their three children, who felt abandoned,
have generalized their hurt and anger
with their mother towards all White people.
As their daughter stated, "You just can't trust
White people, they let you down every time."
Has anyone in your family used the hurt and anger
caused by an individual as "proof" of stereotypes
or negative beliefs about an entire racial group?
Racial devaluation occurs when negative attitudes
and behaviors are expressed toward any of
the racial groups represented in the family.
This may occur directly when family members
make denigrating racial comments, or indirectly
through behaviors where certain children
are treated more favorably than others.
How might you or other family
members express racial devaluation?
How often does this happen?
What effects might this have on
the family, especially on children?
Between Brothers and Sisters
While some sibling rivalry and conflict is
natural, beware of when it becomes "racial".
Tensions among siblings around differences
in complexion, hair textures, eye color, and
facial features often are tied to painful
wounds that can strain relationships and
compromise healthy racial identity development.
Do any of the sibling conflicts in your
family revolve around racial issues?
If yes, how?
"Race doesn't matter in our family"
Wanting to see everyone as "just human"
and to not make race "an issue" leads some
families to avoid talking about race altogether.
Yet race and racism are inescapable
realities [that are found] in our society.
Families who don't talk directly about race often
fail to provide their children with the racial
socialization they need to understand and
manage racial realities outside of the family.
As Mr. Franklin explained, "In this family, we're
all people, so we don't dwell on the race stuff."
While a noble ideal, in refusing to address race,
Mr. Franklin failed to prepare his son, Mike
(half White and half Asian), to handle
the "the race stuff" he encountered
when he went away to college.
Is it hard for your family to discuss
race openly and directly?
What messages do kids learn about race
and how are they prepared to manage
racial issues in the wider world?
When Friends are Unfriendly
Many Mixed-Race kids experience
racial scorn and rejection from peers.
Such experiences are painful but with
appropriate guidance and affirmation
children can cope successfully.
If and when your children encounter
racial rejection from peers, do they
talk to you about these experiences?
Do your children have the coping skills and resources
to manage these experiences with confidence?
What To Do If Any of These Signs
Are Present in Your Family
If you recognize any of these signs in your
family, consulting with a marriage and
family therapist is highly recommended.
Family therapists are trained to understand,
restructure, and heal family relationships.
A family therapist may spend some time meeting
alone with parents or just with kids, but at all times
they are working for the benefit of both the whole
family and for each individual member.
What to Look For in a Family Therapist
Seeking the services of a family therapist
is similar to finding the right pair of shoes:
sometimes you have to try several
pairs before you find the right fit.
The most important thing is to feel comfortable
with your therapist and sense she or he
is a person you can grow to trust.
It is useful to select a therapist who is comfortable
and willing to discuss race openly and directly.
One of the best ways to test this out is to bring
up the topic of race and observe how
comfortably the therapist responds.
--- written by Tracey A. Laszloffy, PhD
It is estimated that the Mixed-Race population
in the United States will reach 21% by 2050
Check All That Apply: Finding
Wholeness as a Multiracial Person.
By Sundee Tucker Frazier.
Downers Grove : Intervarsity Press (2002).
American Mixed Race:
The Culture of Microdiversity.
By Naomi Zack.
Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield (1995).
Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?:
A Parent's Guide to Raising Multi-Racial Children.
By Donna Jackson Nakazawa.
Oxford : Perseus (2003).
Everyday Acts Against Racism:
Raising Children in a Multi-Racial World.
By Maureen Reddy (Editor).
Seattle : Seal Press (1996).
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