More and more Christian adoptive families are opening their adoption preferences to all races. Even though the number of multicultural families is growing, you still may have many questions if you are considering transracial adoption. What are the most loving and supportive ways to bring a transracially adopted child into my Christian family? How can I help my child build a positive cultural identity when I am a different race?
Whether your transracial adopted child comes from a different ethnicity or an entirely different country, there will be some adjusting. However, children adopted across-race can adjust equally as well as children adopted within-race. Race does not make you more or less qualified to love and parent a child. By planning ahead and making an effort to celebrate your child’s heritage, you put your child on a path toward developing high self-esteem and a positive self-image. This is also an exciting way to enrich your growing multicultural family.
Here are 5 ways that you can honor your transracial adopted child’s heritage:
To teach your child about their heritage, you will need to know and understand their heritage. There are endless resources out there to do this. The internet will have most of the information you need, or you can check the library for books and articles on the subject. Most importantly, reach out to community members with a similar heritage and join in their events such as church services and celebrations. Learn about their language, native dishes, and other unique aspects of your child’s ancestry.
2. Make your child’s heritage part of your everyday routine
Transracially adopted children who take pride in their birth culture are more well-adjusted in their families and their communities. There are many ways that you can celebrate the heritage of your transracial adopted child. Introducing books, music, art, and celebrations from your child’s culture is a good start.
Take your child’s lead. Is he interested in the local cuisine of his birth culture? Is he curious about his native language? Follow your child’s natural interests rather than forcing the information.
3. Remember your child is an individual
Race is one part of their identity, as is gender and the fact that they are an adoptee. Your child’s experience as a transracial adoptee may not match the experience of all other adoptees from his culture.
Communicate openly and often with your child, so they know that if they have any questions regarding their heritage or anything else, you are there to help them find the answers they need. If you feel outside help is required in order to find the answers, then reach out for professional help.
By choosing open adoption, you may also have an opportunity to incorporate your transracial adopted child’s own history into his life. Are his or her birth parents willing to share their family history, photo albums, or traditions? These could be valuable resources for your child’s journey of self-discovery.
4. Be open to tough conversations
Do not avoid conversations about race, even if it makes you or your child feel uncomfortable at first. The more open and honest you are, the more comfortable these talks will become.
Transracial adopted children who feel safe to openly discuss discrimination and stereotypes with their families build a stronger sense of who they are.
These talks are great opportunities to help your child as they grow to understand themselves and for your family to grow and learn about living as a multicultural family. You may choose to initiate these conversations regularly. Another option is to respond to events that arise in your community or the news. You and your child may see the world a little differently and may have different experiences in this world due to race. Openly sharing your feelings and experiences will help each member of your family understand each other.
5. Join the larger cultural community
Exposing your transracially adopted child to her heritage is important, but building meaningful relationships with people from her cultural community will have the greatest impact on her positive cultural identity and self-esteem.
Consider these questions about your community:
- Do you live in a diverse area?
- Does your child have access to multicultural experiences?
- Do you see people from your child’s culture in positions of authority?
If you don’t already, seek out a positive role model for your transracial child. Having someone to look up to and talk to in their culture will be very beneficial to your child. To find a role model, search cultural groups, local churches, and community centers that celebrate your child’s heritage. Social media is another option. Look for Facebook groups that focus on transracial adoption, and you may find a community that has great ideas and will support you.
It is important for your transracial adopted child to have meaningful relationships with both peers and role models in her cultural community.
The best way to prepare for any new experience is to talk to someone who has already lived it.
In Lifetime’s adoption Webinar: Q&A on Transracial Adoption, three adoptive parents offer their perspective on raising transracially adopted children. We think that you’ll learn a lot from the panel as they discuss the joys and challenges of life as a multicultural family!