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How to Prepare Transracial Adoptees for Transitioning to College

Adoption home study social worker holding a formGetting ready for a child to go to college is a challenging task for any parent, but it can be especially hard for transracial adoptees and their parents. Today, we’ll walk you through some tips for making sure your child is properly equipped to head to college.

A Difficult Transition

For many people, the teenage years and the process of applying for colleges are a time of self-discovery and identity exploration. While most children go through this period, it may be especially pronounced for an adoptee. Your teen may find themselves wanting to know how much of their identity comes from their birth parents. Was one of their birth parents a teacher, and that’s why the profession interests them? Do they have any learning disabilities or other conditions that they inherited from their biological family?

While these types of questions are normal, they can be painful for adoptive parents to hear. But it’s important to make sure your child feels as though they can talk to you, regardless of how much the conversation may hurt. Particularly with transracial adoptees, they may feel guilt or shame about wondering about their heritage, leading to a reluctance to discuss these questions. Or maybe they’re struggling, perhaps for the first time, with their race, and they feel that they can’t discuss these feelings because their parents may not understand what it’s like to be a minority. When parenting them, your role should be to love and support the child no matter what and do whatever you can to make this uncertain period easier for you and them.

How to Make the Transition Easier 

The first and most important advice adoptive parents of a child of color should keep in mind is that ignoring race will only hurt the child. Prejudice and racism are still very prevalent in today’s world, and disregarding that fact will only leave your child ill-prepared for the world they are about to enter. Because of this, it’s vital that a transracial adoptee has mentors and friends who are the same race as them. Furthermore, adoptive parents should do their research. Talk to other transracial families, learn more about what life is like for your child’s racial group by reading books by and talking to people from that group, and be willing to have conversations about race with your child. 

When it comes to the college search, another big issue transracial adoptees struggle with is the college essay. Writing about their experiences with being adopted may help them work through some of their identity questions, However, terms often used to describe the college essay, such as “branding” oneself, can also serve to intensify a transracial adoptee’s feeling of being nothing more than an object to be bought and sold. Similarly, receiving rejections from colleges may bring back those painful feelings that they are unwanted.

Parenting a transracial child through the college application process can be a challenge for both parent and child. To help make it easier, remind your child that you are there to support them in whatever way you can and that you love them no matter what happens.