How to Talk with Teens About Interracial Dating

One in 12 marriages that took place in the U.S. in 2012 were interracial, according to a Pew Research Center Study (NBC News) 1. Though interracial unions are at an all-time high, prejudice and confusion still surround interracial dating. A research study conducted by Dr. Melanie Killen (CNN 2) found that there exists a major divide between the generations on this topic, with teens more open to the prospect and parents still hesitant and concerned 2. Instead of letting this divide hinder your relationship with your child, speak to him about interracial dating and develop some common ground 2.

Tell your teen that it is okay to acknowledge race. Rebecca Bigler, professor at University of Texas – Austin, speaks of a growing challenge -- color-mute syndrome. This challenge is the direct result of attempts at political correctness which leave some thinking that even acknowledging a racial difference is racist. Remind your teen that racism means thinking that someone is inferior as a result of his race and that it is acceptable and appropriate to discuss race and interracial dating. (USA Today 4)

Discuss the challenges of interracial dating 3. Remind your teen that not everyone is tolerant of interracial romances, citing some of the challenges associated with interracial dating outlined by California State University, Fullerton including: being stared at, friends or family opening disagreeing with your choice, directly rude comments or lack of acceptance for the partner at family or social gatherings 3. Tell your teen that you aren’t discussing these challenges in an attempt to discourage her from engaging in an interracial relationship, but instead to prepare her for the struggles she may have to face if she elects to 3.

Make clear statements of tolerance. Convey the importance of tolerance and acceptance, cautions Killen. If parents discuss racial differences and fail to stress the importance of tolerance, they may inadvertently influence not only their teen’s romantic relationships, but also their friendships, leading them to shy away from friendships with individuals of different races or even exhibit racial prejudice. (CNN 2)

Stress continued love for your teen regardless of the choices she makes. Teens who are engaged in -- or considering becoming engaged in -- interracial relationships can feel that they will create problems for their parents who may have to stand up to pressure from other, less-accepting, family members. Don’t burden your teen with this worry. Instead, tell her clearly that you support her and her decisions. (Dr. Phil)