Parenting an adopted child of a different race or culture can be a rewarding, yet challenging, experience for all involved. When bringing a child from a different racial or cultural background into the family, it is important to be prepared to live a new multiracial and multicultural way of life. This can sometimes require additional education and efforts before and even after the adoption [or birth] takes place.
When preparing to adopt, parents should examine their own personal biases and prejudices in order to be able to understand and acknowledge differences in race and culture and create a home and family life that reflects a child’s heritage and supports them as they develop their own unique racial and cultural identity. It is important that parents also assess their community to ensure that there are ample racial ‘mirrors’ for their children and that diversity is the norm and is celebrated. By choosing where they live, the service providers they utilize, the schools the children attend, and the churches or organizations they belong to, parents can enable their child’s racial and cultural membership. When children can see themselves reflected in a variety of people in a variety of roles, they develop a positive view of their identity.
“Interracial Adoption: Helping a Child Build a Healthy Sense of Racial Identity,”; from the Forever Families, Inc. website, provides adoptive parents with the following strategies for creating a multiracial and multicultural home life and helping their child develop a healthy racial identity:
***Encourage and help children to find mentors and role models of the same background as them. There may be questions about race and identity that an adoptive parent cannot answer. Having someone they can go to for answers or just to talk to can help children navigate racism and feelings of being different.
***Make new connections with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and explore resources within the community that will help you to expand your knowledge about diversity and inclusion. Join groups dedicated to social or racial justice or enroll your child in a diverse school.
***Acknowledge racism and learn ways to talk to your child about how to cope with and respond to racism and microaggressions they may encounter.
***Embrace new traditions and customs from your child’s race or culture to help them to learn to value and respect diversity and their own racial identity.
Understanding and acknowledging differences in race and culture and actively creating a home and family life that reflects a child’s heritage are critical in helping them develop a strong sense of self and identity as well as resilience when having to deal with racism. In families where the parents are racially diverse, they must be honest about identity with their child[-ren].
Conversations need to begin early with children surrounding the complexity of their identity. A child may appear as completely caucasian externally, at first sight, when in fact one parent is black and the other is white. That child needs to be made familiar with both sides of their identity and family-race, culture, values, etc… A healthy awareness, respect and appreciation for both sides of the family can be fostered, internalized and incorporated into their own sense of self. Having these discussions can also help children cope with the narrow perspectives of others in society.
Let your child know that because some people may be unfamiliar with complex identities or the ‘other’, it is their fear and ignorance that feeds responses. Foster a healthy sense of ‘self-love’ for who each child is, never limiting where they can go or what they can do in life. Most of all, make the home a safe and loving space, where your child can always find support and someplace to process the outside world. This helps, at least until the world around us becomes more culturally- inclusive, better informed and less fearful of ‘different’.
Prospective parents are best prepared for addressing and overcoming many of the challenges, to engage in difficult conversations and when intentional in planning to love and nurture a child with a different racial or cultural background. The resources below may be helpful to adoptive or biological parents in their journey as a racially or culturally diverse family.