There has always been an increased need within the domestic adoption system for non-white or mixed race children to be adopted. Aside from age and disability, race can sadly be another factor that can cause a child to wait longer within the system for a permanent home.
Sadly, adoptive parents can often worry about the perceived issues of adopting transracially, and while there can be some challenges in incorporating a child of another race into your family, the benefits are also plentiful. In this article we’ll be taking a look at how to help your child navigate questions of race and identity as they age.
Challenges you May Face
Raising any child, be they your biological child or domestically or internationally adopted, is never without its challenges, but there can be some issues you might encounter that are more specific to transracial adoptees. There usually will be little issue with concepts of race and identity in the early years, but as a child ages, and particularly when they start school, some difficult questions may arise, for example:
- “Why do I look different from the other boys and girls?”
- “Why do other children’s mommies and daddies look the same as them?”
- “Why am I different?”
As a child ages further and progresses into the preteen and teenage years, questions may become more complex and can become a challenge for parents to answer. There may be questions surrounding racism, perceptions of beauty or cultural history. This can also be the time when almost all adopted children, regardless of race or culture, begin to ask ‘why me’ and become curious about their origins and biological parents.
What You Can Do as Parents to Help
Acknowledging your child’s’ race and cultural history is an essential facet when parenting a transracial adoptee, as neglecting this can cause you to unintentionally harm your child. Race and culture is a huge part of our identity, and if this is omitted from a child’s upbringing they can be left feeling detached or isolated. In the worst case scenarios, they may even deem their race or culture as inferior to that of their adoptive parents’ and seek to suppress their identity to conform to you instead of celebrating their uniqueness.
Therefore, one of the most important things you can do to help your child navigate questions of race and culture is to actively celebrate both your own race and culture as well as the child’s, to not only show them that all colors and creeds are beautiful, but encourage them to have a strong bond with their own racial and cultural identity. There are many ways that parents can do this. For example:
- Encouraging the child to interact with individuals of their own race
- Reading books/promoting learning about both transracial adoption and the culture of the child
- Learn the child’s’ native language, or set about learning it together as a bonding exercise
- Find same-race/ethnicity mentors for your child
- Hold open conversations about racism, and confront these problems openly
- Cook dishes prevalent in the child’s culture
- Celebrate a spectrum of cultures
A Strong Leader
At the heart of it all, as long as you display correct behaviours for your child to model, incorporating and encouraging your child to celebrate their race and ethnicity will come naturally. By forming a bond based around listening, trust, and understanding, as all good parents do, any issues your child might face can be faced together as a family unit.