Ask AF: Wishing She Looked Like Mom

What does it mean when non-white children say they want to be white? An expert advises one parent as to what could be going on.

Q: Recently, my five-year-old, African-American daughter has been saying she wishes she were white. She said it again tonight, and, before I could say anything, continued, “I know what you are going to say. You are going to tell me that I am beautiful and special and that you are glad that I am black.” (That is, in fact, how I’ve been responding.) What else can I do?


A: It is natural for children this age to wish they looked like their parents, and I have a hunch that that’s what’s going on here. Since your standard response — that you love her just the way she is — is the truth, you might ask her what she would like you to say.

You may also want to ask her why she wants to be white. What does she think would be better about being white? Does she think you would love her more? Does she think that would mean that she was born from your tummy? What does she think would be different in your family, at school, at Grandma’s house, if she were white?

Finally, acknowledge that it must be hard to be the only African American in your family, and introduce her (and your entire family) to other transracial adoptive families.


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