Mixed Heritage Families
What is Mixed Heritage?
'Mixed heritage' is the fastest growing ethnic minority group in Britain today, children where the mother and father are of different races. A high number of mixed heritage children are raised in single parent households.
The term ‘mixed heritage’ is very broad and includes people from all different cultures and backgrounds so, for the individual child, it comes down to a question of their own ‘identity’. Roots matter and children usually access their heritage through their family connections but how can you achieve this as a single parent with minimal or perhaps no contact with the other parent’s culture?
It may be difficult but it’s not impossible. There are a number of things you can do to enable your child to explore the values and traditions of their family's culture and learn to understand and celebrate their heritage.
- Maps are a great way to begin a discussion. Put up maps of different countries or a map of the world with coloured pins to identify the appropriate countries of origin.
- Take a trip to the library. Look for reference books that will give clues to the climate, geography and history of a country. Seek out relevant story and poetry books. Libraries should also have posters and flyers highlighting local events many of which may be culturally based.
- Joining in with cultural activities, such as dance or drumming workshops can be both great fun and a great way to get some exercise!
- Talk to older children about cultural role models. Many high profile celebrities in the fields of sport and music are mixed heritage. Consider too those who have achieved in other areas such as scientists, writers and artists.
- Check out foreign films and TV documentaries.
- Browse the Internet for Embassy or Consulate websites. They vary hugely but many of them have useful information and diaries showing upcoming cultural events.
- Maybe look into your local Twin Town Society. Getting involved would give access to a different language and on the subject of languages - teaching your child even a few basic words such as ‘hello, goodbye, please and thank you’, are a great gateway to another culture.
- Music, of course, is an international language anyway and luckily these days it is very easy to access music from all parts of the world. Explore both modern and traditional forms.
Food, too, is fun and yet another great way to celebrate different cultures. Again, the Internet is a good source of recipes from all over the world and with a little effort most ingredients (or close substitutes) can be tracked down.
- Work with your child to create their own heritage scrapbook filled with the results of all your efforts - pictures, photographs, tickets, drawings, scraps of writing, poems - anything that fires their imagination.
Bear in mind that there is no right or wrong way to be mixed heritage and all your efforts should, first and foremost, be about having fun. All children should be encouraged to respect and value the many cultures that make up our society. Giving a child a broad cultural experience allows them to make choices about their heritage and about what is right for them. In this way they develop self confidence and a strong sense of pride in just who they are and where they, personally, have come from.
You may also want to see our Knowing our Cultural Identity article.