Barbadian, Puerto Rican, Irish, Norwegian, Jamaican, East Indian, and Native American, all under one roof! We never planned on having such a colorful family… it just happened. Nor did we ever adopt internationally, only domestically. Through private and foster care/adoption, we’ve been blessed to have had many different nationalities and ethnicities under our roof. Keeping a child connected to his/her culture is very important. Your child’s culture has a rich history and they deserve to know it. If you are pursuing a transracial adoption consider the following:
1. Seek out significant persons of the same culture as your child.
Keep the child connected to his culture by keeping him connected to one person in his past, if possible. Perhaps it’s a relative, family friend, or clergy. It has been a blessing to have open adoptions where our children can learn new words, jewelry, and family history. If you are adopting internationally, seek advice from a person of the same culture. They have insights that you could never have dreamed.
2. Learn about the food of your child’s culture.
Most foster children have feeding issues. From hoarding food to overeating, to not eating enough, foster/adopted children can use food as a control issues. Add to that an adopted child from another culture, the prospects can be daunting! A way to cut down on the control issues while learning about exotic foods is to research foods from that culture. Is your child from Mexico? Try making tamales or tacos (but not from Taco Bell, haha!). Is your child Native American? Make fry bread! Better yet, let your child help you. My daughter, who was born in India, loves naan bread and we try to buy it every chance we get. This will keep your child connected to his culture and will reduce battles at the dinner table.
3. Learn about the hairstyle of your child’s culture.
Take this quiz:
A black child’s hair needs to be washed every day. True or False?
A black child’s hair needs to be blow dried after each wash. True or False?
A black child’s hair is generally oily. True or false?
Answer the following: What are razor bumps?
If you are Caucasian and answered True to any of the above questions and don’t know what razor bumps are, you need to be educated. Do research or take classes in African-American hair care. Seek out stores/salons that specialize in this type of hair and hair product (i.e. Sally Beauty Supply). Or seek an African-American friend or family member that may be able to care for your child’s hair. Hair can be very important in many cultures. Take the time to research hair care.
4. Learn about the dress/jewelry of your child’s culture.
Are you adopting from an Asian nation? Research the dress, traditions, and heritage from that nation. Start a new tradition in your home like, removing your shoes at the door. Is your child Native American? Research the history of turquoise jewelry in Native cultures. Is your child from India? Research what a traditional “sari” or what a “bindi” is. This can fun before you bring that child into your home and really fun if you allow your child to participate.
5. Research festivals/rites of passage of your child’s culture.
Is your son from a Jewish heritage? Consider a Bar Mizpah when he turns 13 y/o. Does your daughter have Mexican heritage? Consider a quinceanera when she turns 15 y/o. Is your child Native American? Look for Pow Wows in your area. Compare different Native tribes in your area. Learn the names of the clans your child descends from. These things may not be important to you, but one day, they will be important to your child. Be prepared!
Here’s the bottom line: a child from a different culture or nationality or race does not automatically adapt to your culture when you adopt. Therefore, you must make the best effort to adapt to hers. It’s a matter of blending cultures. Prepare by learning as much as possible, seeking out advice from others, swallowing your pride and putting yourself in the child’s situation.