Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Learning About Diversity: HybridRastaMama.comWe are all mutts. Every last one of us. You might *think* that you are Italian, or Cuban, or Kenyan, or Russian with nothing else mixed in, but at the end of the day, we all have a little extra something in our DNA that ties us to a culture outside of the one we celebrate and embrace as ours.

You have heard of the Papa of all Papas right? In short, the branches of the human Y chromosome DNA tree all come together in a single man, the Papa of all Papas, or the PoP. This paternal line of all humans leads to a man who lived in Africa an estimated 125,000 years ago. Therefore, every one of us has one drop of African blood.

I state this fact to illustrate the importance of understanding your DNA makeup, not so you can stop celebrating the culture and traditions in which you were raised but so you can ensure that you are honoring who your children are and who they come from.

Your DNA is simply that – DNA. It does not trump the culture that you identify with. In a million years I would never walk away from the rich family history found in the Italian side of my family. I was essentially raised Italian. Nothing else that makes me who I am genetically was ever celebrated or even really provided to me as an opportunity to learn more for myself. I mean, I knew that there was possibly some of this and some of that. But we all identified with our Italian blood and therefore, I missed out on a lot of the rich and diverse traditions, food, music, celebrations, and more from the other pieces of my ancestry.

Tiny is an exotic mixture of cultural goodness. She has so many bloodlines coursing through her veins and as her mother, I intend to open her eyes to the beauty of all of them. Through my efforts in helping her understand the cultures that have blended together inside her, I am also helping her to understand the concept of diversity.

She isn’t just “this” or “that” culture. She didn’t come from here or there. She really is a child of the world. Exposing Tiny to traditions, religions, cultural celebrations, unique holidays, folk tales, and more from countries all over the world will help her see just how incredible each and every human being is which ultimately will help her define the kind of experience she has throughout life.

Children are born with completely open minds. They have no concept of diversity or homogeny because to them, everything simply is. It is us adults who start in with the labeling and categorizing forcing our children out of the open embrace they have on the world and into closed-mindedness.

In order to help children hold on to that openness for life, we must show them diversity within themselves. When they see just how varied their own histories are, they can better appreciate that all humans, regardless of gender, skin tone, physical challenges, etc…really, truly, are one. Plain and simple.
When you are parenting a child with multiple heritages, it can be a tad overwhelming to share all the richness of each culture. Here are 5 ideas to help you honor your child’s genetic makeup so that they can begin to live their cultures.

  1. Choose one culture to focus on each month. Use that month to explore traditional celebrations, art, music, dance, literature, food, and history to the developmental level of your child. Taking things one culture at a time makes it more manageable for the parent and less overwhelming for the child.
  2. Do not focus on book learning. Instead, engage your child by immersing them in various aspects of each culture. Have children of any age assist you in the kitchen creating a traditional meal, beverage, or treat. Discover the music of that culture by scouting out live performances in your area. You will be surprised how many there are!
  3. Find some videos on the internet that show various celebration, religious ceremonies, or dance performances of that culture. Even if you are a media free family, you might consider a special treat every once in a while. Children will soak a lot about a culture in when they can see it unfolding before their eyes.
  4. Create!!! Use art as a way to better understand a certain culture. Even if you are not crafty, you can get tons of ideas online. To help me find a connection with the Zuni Native American culture, I actually made a Katchina doll in 7th grade. It was an extraordinary experience, one that I still carry with me today.
  5. Read traditional stories from that culture. Tiny adores storytelling so I often will find a simple story that I can memorize and then tell it to her at bedtime. Over the years, these stories have spurred a dialogue that even at the tender age of four, has helped Tiny understand who she is ancestrally. We particularly like cultural renditions of that answer creation type questions…where the sun came from, why it gets dark at night, how certain animals came to be. The stories are always very entertaining while offering an important cultural learning opportunity.

If you do not know your ancestry, I believe that you are doing yourself and your child a great disservice. Our identities are formed in so many ways but what better way to discover ourselves than through our blood line.

I used 23andMe to conduct my DNA testing and have been very impressed with their prices and services. In fact, the information revealed has knocked me for a loop. So if you would like to learn more about your genetic makeup, I highly recommend you start with my affiliate partner, 23andMe! I promise, you won’t regret it!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Call Me Clarice, I Don’t Care – A True Message in Diversity — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out, but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will only know same-sex marriage as normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless response to her son’s apparent prejudice.

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  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says

    I love your ideas for celebrating multiple heritages! I think I might check out what festivals and other opportunities are available in our city and use that as the starting point for what to choose each month. That way, we can likely attend something culturally relevant each month, live.

    I was just hearing about tracing DNA — that sounds so cool! I’d really love to do that with my husband in particular, because I suspect his family tree is a lot more diverse than they know.

  2. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says

    We did a lot of these in our advent activities, but there is no reason to limit them to one season! Great ideas :)

  3. says

    Wonderful post and suggestions! You know Jennifer, I could talk endlessly on this subject. We have in our living room a rather large family tree that includes a minimum of seven generations of ancestor. My children are at the bottom and at the top are sixteen surnames from all over the world. Irish and Scottish are by and far the dominant, but also we have Dutch, English, German and Italian.

    There is a large binder in my filing cabinet full of family history – some going back to 300’s ad. Not joking! I’m very serious about family history. In the binder are more than names, but profiles of different families and individuals. I love that we have branches in our family from so many regions and walks of life. Poor dirt farmers, frontiersmen and frontier-women, wealthy plantation owners, minor royalty, a soldier in the Irish militia who was killed in the up-rising induced by the Irish potato wars (this man is the forebearer of our surname, Fenton, and my oldest son is unwittingly named after him – ohhhh, I should tell you THAT story some day!). My husband has a great-great-grandmother who had a baby out of wedlock in the 1800’s and raised him herself. One of my great-great-grandmothers was a confirmed prostitute. Somewhere, unable to document but it shows up in tale-tell genetic features is African American, and we have several documented Native American Ancestors.
    So much history. So many incredible people who have passed a part of themselves down to us. It’s a truly beautiful thing.

  4. says

    These are some great ideas for introducing children to other cultures! I think that a lot of the time, just opening our children’s eyes to the fact that some people do things differently than we do lets their minds open up so much. It is amazing how much one meal, or one story can change the way that they think!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. says

    I love the idea of introducing a culture each month, although we may do so over a longer period. My husband often travels overseas with work so maybe we can use that as a basis to start and go from there.

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