If there's one point Young wants to clarify about raising children in a biracial family, it's that there's no single best way to do it. This process absolutely must be customized to the family, their values, and their needs.
That being said, much like the importance of vocalizing values early-on in dating, partners are smart to discuss and agree on key child-rearing guidelines before getting pregnant. "For example, no hitting or spanking for bad behavior. No demeaning in public. And you don't have to do necessarily what your parents did," says Young, reflecting on her own guidelines.
Beyond the basics, Young believes most essential element of raising biracial children is ensuring these children are aware and proud of both family's history and traditions.
"When we went to my hometown in Nevada, people were watching us, and we were different," Young recalls, of her husband, son, and herself. "And it's not that we were treated unkindly, we were just a novelty."
It often happened in places less used to seeing a biracial couple. For example, when Young's son was age six, he was obsessed with Magic Johnson and wore his jersey when the family visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. "We were eating at a diner, and several people were just staring at us," she explains. "There were no other non-white people around."
Young's son asked her, whether everyone was staring at him because they also really love Magic Johnson. Given his age and innocence, she said "Yes, I really think that's it," but remembered to bookmark the experience, so to explain the racial dynamics later on.
And once her son was a bit older, conversations about race were common and welcome. "We always focused on talking about the successes of our families, and what they did accomplish," says Young:
"While we touched on issues tied to race, we really emphasized the common thread
between our elders, which is that they were all very good people. My mother-in-law
raised seven children, and they're all married, successful, with happy and healthy children. There are 44 of us in the immediate family, and every one of us feels special in her eyes. That's what you talk about.
Sure, you can talk about fun traditions of making sushi or fried rice or whatever, but I think the most important thing is to actively incorporate both traditions in everything we do. We had traditions from both families on every holiday. We talked a lot about all the things that happened in my and my husband's family growing up, and we spent time with both families frequently."
As impactful as this approach is, biracial children are bound to face difficult experiences deserving of conversation that can be eased by open and candid conversation with their parents before, during and when it happens. One strategy Young advises is having a short conversation every night with your child about something that happened that day.
"My son was very observant of reactions to him from a very early age," she explains. "So when we talked at night, our conversations transitioned from 'I lost my lunch box' to perceived discrimination." The key, says Young, is ensuring your child knows you are open to communicate about any topic, regardless of how it might make you feel.