Why Celebrating Cultural Differences in a Transracial Adoption Is Important
Transracial adoption is far from a new phenomenon, especially in the United States. However, as transracial adoptions become more mainstream — now making up 44% of all adoptions — parents and social workers are increasingly recognizing the prevalence of racism and microaggressions, even in the most well-meaning families.
When parents act on stereotypes or treat their own culture as the norm, transracial adoptees can grow up with internalized prejudices against themselves and their birth cultures. This can be incredibly confusing, if not psychologically damaging for children. It’s a major societal and familial issue that parents must combat.
Celebrating your child’s cultural differences is key to helping your child adapt to a new environment and process their adoption in a healthy way. Here are more benefits to celebrating your child’s culture and how you can do so effectively.
Build Your Child’s Self-Confidence
When children first join a family from a different racial or cultural background, it can feel difficult to fit in. They may feel the need to assimilate into your family’s culture, even if it’s one that feels completely foreign to them. While allowing this assimilation to happen is certainly the easiest path for parents, it can cause long-term issues with your child’s self-image. Despite being completely ingrained in your family’s culture, your child will constantly see that they look different.
However, when your family chooses to celebrate your adopted child’s heritage, you can instill in them a sense of pride. Showing your child how much you value their background can help them appreciate where they come from and where they are now. This is key to helping them develop long-lasting self-confidence.
Educate Yourself About Your Child’s Culture
Often, our understanding of other races and ethnicities comes from how they’re represented in the media and in textbooks, as well as our personal interactions with people of those races. This can lead to biases and assumptions that negatively impact your child’s view of their own culture. For instance, public school education often brushes over Black history, which means you might not recognize your child’s generational trauma or the amazing contributions that people from their culture have made.
Before you can lead your child toward cultural pride, you need to educate yourself about what their background actually entails.
The internet offers an abundance of resources about cultural traditions and ethnic history, as well as traditional recipes that you can perfect. If you’re gravitating toward media like movies, books, or podcasts, seek those that are created by someone of your child’s race. This way, you’re learning directly from people with first-hand experiences, so you can cultivate a stronger sense of empathy for your child and love for their background.
Incorporate New Family Traditions
Once you’ve learned more about your child’s background, you can start honoring their culture by incorporating parts of it into your family traditions. For instance, if you’re adopting a child with Mexican heritage, your family can celebrate major holidays like Mexican Independence Day and Dia de los Muertos, making your festivities as big as those for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
You can also choose to create new family traditions instead of celebrating all the holidays that are relevant to your multicultural family. Rather than focusing on the differences — like celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas in the same holiday season — you can develop a family holiday that uniquely bonds your loved ones together. For instance, you can celebrate a made-up “Culture Day” that incorporates the best parts of all your cultural traditions.
Collect Resources for Your Child’s Cultural Exploration
As your child grows, there’s a good chance that they’ll have questions about their own culture. They may want to start exploring their background in their own ways — perhaps by learning a new language or reading more about the countries they’re connected to. Offer your support by helping them access the resources they need, and be open to conversations about the knowledge they gain.
Your assistance can be as simple as helping them find helpful books or documentaries. Or, you can even consider signing them up for cultural clubs and language classes or taking them on a heritage trip. Go at your child’s pace to ensure they feel empowered in their journey.
Celebrate Your Child
Parents must handle every transracial adoption with care. When you want to ensure that your child feels comfortable in their own skin and proud of their unique background, it’s important to show your own appreciation for their culture. Start by educating yourself about their background, using resources written by people from your child’s culture.
Then, start actively celebrating your child’s culture. You can incorporate their heritage into your family traditions and cook foods that help them connect with their ethnicity. As your child grows, make sure you offer support by offering all the resources that they need to fully explore where they came from.