Transracial adoption describes a situation where a family adopts a child of a different race. The child may already be living in the United States, or a family may travel to another country to adopt their child. The reasons families choose to adopt a child from another ethnic background are varied. Transracial adoption is much more common than it’s been in the past, so parents are no longer concerned about finding a child who “looks like them.” Today’s families are more diverse than ever.
With transracial adoption, parents need to be prepared to talk often and openly about diversity. It is important to talk to their children about their cultural heritage, and be prepared for when their children ask questions about their ethnicity. Adoptive families should make a strong effort to educate themselves on their child’s heritage. Sharing this knowledge with their child can help them create a strong sense of self. Here are some ways to help foster a child’s love for their culture:
- Make an effort to get to know people who share a child’s heritage – help them connect with children for play dates, or attend social functions that allow a child to meet other children of their same ethnicity.
- Read books about their heritage, as well as books about transracial adoption – there are many children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, that do a good job of talking about these subjects in ways that kids can understand. A quick internet search can return many titles.
- Provide culturally diverse toys and dolls – again, a quick internet search can return options for toys from a child’s birth country. A child who has a doll house will want her doll family to look like her own family, so provide some dolls that are diverse.
- Make the child’s culture part of everyday life – attend cultural events when possible, put ethnic foods on the weekly menu, learn the child’s native language, and celebrate cultural holidays. Get everyone in the family involved.
- Strike a balance – it is easy to go overboard when trying to help an adopted child feel “at home” in their new country. Remember that they also don’t want to appear different than their peers. Encourage them to participate in activities with kids their age. Celebrate customs from your own heritage as well. Teach your child to celebrate diversity and to respect other cultures in this world.