Mystery girl sparks race row
When your child looks different to you, people's reactions can be hurtful.
The recent news story of a mystery girl ‘rescued’ from her alleged abductors in a Roma camp in Greece has generated an unexpected discussion. Following the removal of a second girl from a Roma community in Ireland it has hit boiling point. The reason for both removals? The children both had striking blonde hair, unlike their families. This has led to a debate about whether or not the authorities are abusing racial profiling. While the first child has been proven by DNA testing to have been living with people who weren’t her biological parents, the removal of the second child is feeding on an increasingly prominent parenting issue: When your child doesn’t look like you (or vice versa) people sometimes say hurtful things.

*Update: DNA tests on the second girl removed from a camp showed that she really IS her parent's daughter, despite having a different appearance. (Daily Mail).

Mixed race, mixed reactions

Mixed-race couples with kids and adoptive parents often experience first-hand the cruelty of people who make assumptions about the family dynamic. Bigoted, racist comments may be hurled as insults or, more insidiously, whispered as if skin colour and culture are dirty secrets. A black mom with a blue-eyed son? A blonde mom with a child sporting glorious black curls and deep brown skin?  Despite being nearly 20 years into the “Rainbow Nation”, such varieties and combinations in families still produce hate in others.

The granny syndrome

Recent studies have shown that people are waiting until later in life to have children. Women of 40 years old and older are frequently first-time moms. While age needn’t have an impact on a woman’s ability to be a mom, she may experience the curse of assumption when out and about with her baby. Strangers may stare while trying to figure out (or, worse still, ask) if the older mom is mom or granny to the child. Again, as with race, age is no insult, but when people imply that your child isn’t your child because of the way you differ in appearance, that’s extremely upsetting.


Not everyone is rude, insensitive or cruel, but parents that are disabled or parents of disabled children will know exactly just how mean some people can be. Sometimes it’s natural curiosity such as a child staring at a person with a prosthetic limb as the child is attempting to process the physical difference, but it can be as cutting as people assuming that the person in the wheelchair couldn’t possibly be the mom or dad to that child, or when people talk over the child in a wheelchair as if he or she doesn’t exist or is incapable of listening and responding.

The kindness solution

Parents can teach or model better behaviour to their children. Kids do notice the physical differences in people, but parents teach their kids how to react. Mean parents will most likely see mean attitudes reproduced in their children. Racism can be taught. Judgmental behaviour can be taught. And, once learned, negative behaviour is very hard to unlearn. We all screw up and make assumptions occasionally, but if we strive to be considerate and kind, we can produce kinder, more considerate children.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Have your kids ever made embarrassing comments about people in public?

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