As we are celebrating Black History Month in February, it seemed timely to discuss ways that foster or adoptive parents can honor their child’s culture, heritage, and racial identity. This is not only something that is recommended for transracial families, but it is essential. Children have a deep desire to know their history and to have a strong sense of identity in who God made them. It is our responsibility as their parents to not only discuss issues related to race but to instill a sense of pride in our child regarding their rich heritage.
I recently got in touch with one of our adoptive families who welcomed their sweet, beautiful Eden into their family as a newborn over two years ago. When I asked Eden’s mother about the biggest lesson they’ve learned in becoming a transracial family, Ashley shared the following:
We have learned the importance of continuing to learn and being intentional! It’s so important to celebrate our daughter’s heritage. We want to honor the unique beauty God has given her while at the same time showing her “mirrors,” or people who look like her. We have chosen to be intentional in honoring our daughter’s culture and heritage. It won’t happen naturally, so it is something we have to seek out to make it a regular part of our lives. Do your homework! Have books, dolls, and resources in your house that honor his or her heritage. Follow social media accounts that celebrate or mirror your child’s culture. But most importantly, find actual people! Is there a festival in your town? A restaurant? A more diverse playground? A place of worship? Go! Make new friends!
This transracial family life is a journey. I don’t have the advantage of having growing up in [my child’s] culture. There’s no way I could learn a lifetime of history, information, or hair care in a day. (Although, I could try! Hello, YouTube!) But give yourself grace. That’s where those newfound friends can be invaluable! If I take the posture of a student, I’ve yet to find someone who isn’t willing to teach, share, or encourage.
What honest, heartfelt, and beautiful advice! The fact is that honoring your foster or adoptive child’s culture or heritage is something that every parent needs to prioritize in their home and within their family. Some elements will come easier than others. There are times that you will feel out of your comfort zone. There are times when you will want to seek out proud and successful men or women of color for advice on how to raise your son or daughter. Asking for help in this way can be scary, but the reward can be so great.
In speaking with Eden’s mother, Ashley regarding the hardest lesson their family has learned in becoming a transracial family she shared the following:
It took having a child of a different race to care deeply about racial tension, divides, and injustices… And the evolution in my heart doesn’t automatically mean my family and friends have evolved, too. If you’re like me, you’ve read, studied, and listened to all the podcasts on transracial adoption. Chances are your friends and family have logged zero hours doing the same. Give them some grace, too. Sometimes- most of the time- this friction means having hard conversations to share what you’ve learned or how their words could be insensitive to your child. Sometimes (hopefully rarely) it means distancing yourself from some friends. Working toward unity is worth the effort!
Do you have questions related to celebrating your child’s heritage or culture? Are there specific elements of this topic that you would like to address more directly? Please give us feedback so that we can share information that will be helpful to you.
Other resources you may find helpful are as follows:
Young Adult Transracial Adoptees Talk about Adoption- A podcast from the perspective of the adoptee. The host interviews four black adoptees in their twenties who were raised by white parents about their experience with transracial adoption.
Transracial Adoption: Talking About Race- an article regarding the importance of talking about race with your adopted child, including a link to the podcast “Transracial Adoption: Doing It Well.”
Raising a Child of Another Race- An article about instilling racial pride in adopted kids
Books on Transracial Adoption- this is a list of books that discuss issues related to transracial adoption.