Color Your World
Families that expand their worlds to incorporate all kinds of cultures help their children develop strong racial identities.by Jane A. Brown
Parents in transracial adoptive families sometimes believe that exposing a child to her culture of origin via holiday celebrations or language lessons will be enough to assure the development of a healthy identity. But cultural education alone is not enough. Here are steps you can take to ensure that your child grows up with a strong sense of self-worth.
Multiracial/Multicultural Environments Help
All transracially adopted tweens need ongoing, personal relationships with adults who look like they do, and with adults and children of color, generally. Establishing such
relationships can be challenging if you live in a community that lacks diversity. In these cases, parents should remember that immersing a child in multicultural and multiracial experiences is as important as connecting with the child’s specific ethnic community.
Empower children to value their heritage
Enroll your child in ethnic dance lessons or martial arts classes, and attend ethnic places of worship to find families of color to share everyday, multicultural experiences.
Schedule playdates with classmates of color, and find mentors of color in coaches, teachers, pediatricians, babysitters, and teen friends.
Show children you value your own heritage, as well as theirs, by discussing the contributions in history, art, science, or music made by your “people.”
Find resources for parenting children of Asian, African-American, or Latino heritage, including book lists, personal experiences, celebrations and recipes, at adoptivefamilies.com/
transracial-adoption and adoptivefamilies.com/heritage.
If you are able to pick your child’s school, look for one with racial diversity among staff and students. After all, school is where youngsters spend most of their time (when they are not at home), and derive most of their sense of self.
Seek out babysitters, pediatricians, opticians, and other professionals of color for your child. Look for a church or place of worship with families of varying ethnicities. Plan vacations at places—a particular beach, playground, or a multicultural summer camp—frequented by families of color.
Visit cultural fairs and museum exhibits of the art of varying cultures. If you can, travel on vacation to cities in the U.S. or abroad where your children will be immersed in a different culture, hear another language spoken, and see people of various races. Find children’s books with illustrations showing children and adults of different races. In other words, demonstrate an active interest in all people and all cultures, not just that of your child or family.
Provide Role Models
Let your children know about the contributions from their culture of origin in history, art, music, and science. Find and promote friendships with adults who were transracially adopted—a wonderful way to show how adults can successfully straddle two (or more) heritages and racial groups. Point out athletes, film stars, and political figures of color who are worthy of admiration.
Build relationships with adults of color if you can, and visit one another’s homes. Such friendships can prompt conversations about what it means to be an adult of color in one’s community and everyday society—as our children will be one day.
Jane A. Brown is a licensed social worker and founder of the Adoption Playshops Program.
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