Influences of family background

The background of your family - your cultural, racial, or ethnic heritage and your socioeconomic, educational, and occupational status - can impact your children's future. However, none of these affect their career and educational development as much as how your family functions on a day-to-day basis. You will influence your children's futures the most by building positive relationships and being proactively involved in their lives.

Diversity touches all facets of American society. It is felt strongly in the workplace and in education. Being "different" often creates challenges and even adversity for the young. However, as we become more diverse as a nation, greater numbers of people and organizations understand that diversity contributes to the creativity, innovation, and success of America.

The Oregon and U.S. labor market has changed markedly in its racial and ethnic composition in recent years. It will continue to change. Children from unique backgrounds bring a wealth of understanding and experience. Their backgrounds inform organizations and institutions learning how to incorporate a diverse workforce. Businesses are searching for people with work ethic and skills, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. As you help your children prepare for their futures, consider these suggestions:

Value your diversity
Understand the unique contributions your children can make. For example, if you speak a language other than English, encourage your children to maintain their fluency in that language while learning English. Bilingual employees are a valuable resource for all organizations.

Help identify mentors
One of the most difficult aspects about being "different" is that role models can be hard to identify. It is difficult to "see" yourself in a career if no one looks like you. Using your networks of friends, family, work associates, and community groups, identify someone who is successful in the career field your child is interested in pursuing. Encourage your child to contact this person and ask questions about his or her career path. Your child's school may have formal mentoring programs; contact a school counselor or administrator if you need help finding a mentor.

Communicate with teachers
Encourage your children to interact with their teachers on a regular basis. Research has shown that quality interaction with teachers is a key factor in whether or not multicultural students complete their educational goals. As a parent, you also need to play an active role and stay in touch with teachers and others involved in your children’s education.

Encourage a "can do" attitude
Teach your children that obstacles are challenges to overcome, not impassable barriers. Encourage your children to take academically challenging courses, be involved in demanding activities, and actively contribute to their school and community. Regardless of background, challenging young people produces higher achievement.

Use available resources
Encourage your children to take advantage of programs at school and in the community that encourage academic achievement and community involvement. Many colleges offer special summer programs for multicultural high school students to give them a taste of college life and college requirements. Encourage your children to contact people and get involved in organizations that they may not normally contact or join. Expanding connections beyond your neighborhood or immediate community will open up opportunities they had not even contemplated before.

Set goals
Encourage your children to set goals and work toward achieving them. Don't let fate roll the dice! Every person needs to have dreams and plans and to follow through on those plans. Not having a plan is a plan - a plan to do nothing toward building one's future.

Consider "non-traditional" careers
Encourage your children to learn about all kinds of careers, not just the ones that they are most familiar with because they know people in that line of work. There are many career paths and finding the right one involves taking risks, working hard, and asking for help.

Remember, your support and your involvement are the most significant gifts you can give.