AURORA, Colo. — When when you raise kids, love comes first and then the rest of the answers to the millions of questions seem to follow. But as a White mother of multiracial children, Lynn VanderWielen, Ph.D. knew that she wasn't going to have all the answers.
"It's near impossible to lean on my own lived experience and how that happens because it's such a different set of forces that are acting on how my kids are gonna see themselves," she said.
The multiracial population grew 276% from 2010-2020, according to Census data. What the data doesn't show, many say, is the complex identity that comes with being multiracial, and the isolation parents who are raising kids that look and identify differently themselves can face.
Multiracial youth, like Haydee Jackson, a junior in high school, also feel isolated.
"It can be really isolating when you have to limit yourself to one label and you have to deny one aspect of your identity in order to try to find acceptance," Jackson said.
"We need to prepare our children for the bias they're going to encounter in the world, and this can be uncomfortable for many of us because it's not something that maybe we are raised to understand," VanderWielen said.
This is the idea behind Lynn's new venture: Samahra. It's an app designed for multicultural parents and teens to help them connect and better understand one another. Using her public and family health background, Lynn and her team use research to create daily reflection questions meant to help connect parents and kids and information about navigating relationships and biases.
It also has a community to help connect parents who are going through the same things.
"It helps us to validate that we're not alone in, in these scenarios because there are things that come up that feels like, am I the only one that gets this question all the time? Like are those your kids' questions? Am I the only one that hears this every day?" VanderWielen said.
Saydee Jackson is one of the teens who helped develop Samahra Rise, the app for multiracial teens. Jackson says its goal is to provide resources to help teens like her develop their identities.
"It's allowed me to feel seen and worthy in my own identity," said Jackson. "I hope they see their identity as full, and I hope they find the community, we'll support them through that journey."
Helping your children find out who they are is an important part of being a parent, these two say, and for the growing amount of multicultural families, the right information can make it possible, they hope.
"Our families are whole, our families are beautiful, and our families should be celebrated and our families should be safe," said VanderWielen.