2020 will likely be remembered for many things. We have faced challenges in the forms of a pandemic, national calls to quarantine, businesses and schools shutting down, and lives being lost. We have also experienced protests erupting across our great nation due to an outcry for justice and an end to racism. The topic of racism is not only trending in many headlines and in bestselling books, but is also being discussed in our communities, churches, and around our dinner tables.
For our adoptive parents and especially for those parenting children of color, the discussions you may be navigating with your child in this season about race and racism may be more difficult than those you’ve faced in the past. It is heartbreaking to see children hear about, experience, or digest what racism is and the brokenness, division, and pain associated with it. However, this is a topic that our children will inevitably be faced with. It is important that we engage the conversation with them and set a precedent of talking openly and honestly about the issue.
Our desire is to help encourage, support, and equip you to talk about race and the difficult topic of racism in your home. These topics can be uncomfortable and challenging. Many parents are hesitant to discuss them because they are fearful of saying the wrong thing. However, if we want to raise the next generation in a way that will empower them to achieve greater racial equity and unity, then it’s critical to lay the groundwork in engaging in these discussions. If you’re raising a child of color, it is crucial that you create a safe environment in your home for these conversations to be had. Latosha Morrison, the creator of the organization, Be the Bridge, has stated that “you can’t fix something that you can’t acknowledge.” By teaching our youth to recognize unfair treatment or inequality, then we can also teach them to stand up for themselves and others.
Here are some recommendations and resources for transracial adoptive parents that we hope will help empower you to have deeper, more beneficial discussions with your kids about race and racism:
1) Build a solid foundation. Children have a deep desire to know their history. 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. What an honor it is to be able to communicate to a child that they are created by a loving God who made them in His image, exactly as they are. If you have been given the honor of a child of color then you have the responsibility to help them develop a strong and enriched racial identity. You can do this by teaching them to be proud of the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and the richness of their culture. Affirm who they are and the unique gifts that they’ve been given. Instilling a positive racial identity is something that takes time, effort, and intention. Children face new insecurities and questions about their identity at each stage of their development. Helping them to feel valued, worthy, special, and confident in who they are is so worth every second of thought and action you can put into it!
NACAC’s Seven Tasks for Parents: Developing Positive Racial Identity has some great tips for how to do this well, and The Conscious Kid’s website is dedicated to promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.
2) Celebrate your child’s racial/ethnic heritage and history. What an honor it is to not only get to celebrate who your child is, but also to celebrate their culture and the rich history of those that came before them! Adoptive parents with children of any race that is different from their own should be intentional about embracing their child’s racial and cultural community. Introduce them to books, TV shows, and toys that include characters and historical figures of their race. Listen to music, eat foods, and participate in celebrations that are well known in their culture. Hang beautiful art that reflects people that look like them in your home. Find activities in the community where your child can interact with other kids who look like him or her.
3) Outsource. Seek out men or women of color who are willing to speak into your life and your son or daughter’s life. If you are not a person of color yourself, then your child’s lived experience is something that you won’t be able to fully share with them. You won’t know what it’s like to be a minority in this country or what it feels like to be stereotyped or treated differently due to your skin color. It’s okay if you don’t know how to answer every question that your child has as it relates to race. It will be a gift to you and your child to have someone else who can offer their perspective, experience, and support.
4) Talk about the hard things. While there is much to celebrate in embracing your child’s race and culture within your home, it is critical to understand the challenges that come with raising a child of color in a society where racism exists. The history of racism in this country is undoubtedly difficult to discuss. However, the fact that prejudice, discrimination, and racial inequality still exist and that racial tension in this country has recently received so much national attention, has brought about increasingly heavy and painful conversations as children of color try to make sense of it all. Creating a safe space for your child to talk and share about difficult issues related to race and racism is so very important. NCFA recently released a wonderful publication, called Proactive Engagement: The Adoptive Parent’s Responsibility When Parenting a Child of a Different Race. It addresses the responsibility of discussing issues surrounding race and racism with children, and the complexities adoptive parents face trying to protect their children from racism whenever possible, while at the same time preparing them for the racism that they will inevitably face. We highly recommend referencing this article as it also includes wonderful resources and advice about what’s appropriate to discuss and share according to the age and developmental stage of the child.
5) Celebrate heroes and advocates. When considering how difficult it is to confront issues like discrimination and racial inequality with children of color, I recalled an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. In that episode, Fred Rogers talked about when he was a little boy and would see scary things on the news. He stated “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” It is so important to teach children about the many good, caring people in our communities who are working for change. A good starting place could be teaching them about civil rights heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Ella Baker, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Ralph Abernathy, Ruby Bridges, and so many more. In addition, it is important to discuss and celebrate individuals who are currently leading the way in educating about racism and advocating for better standards for racial equality. Who are you learning from? What community leaders do you see trying to make a difference? Who are people or organizations that are bringing people of all races, backgrounds, economic statuses together? While we still have important work to do in this country, let’s remember the helpers and talk about ways that we can all be a part of the change.
6) Pray together. Pray as a family for racial equity and reconciliation in your community, city, and nation. We know that the Kingdom of God will include every nation, tribe, people, and language. We can pray together for help in loving our neighbors well, and for God to bring people together in ways that we haven’t seen or experienced before. When you feel led, take the opportunity to lament as a family over instances of racial injustice that occur. Many times, lament comes before healing. Pray that God will bring healing to our brokenness, that He will move and change hearts, that He will raise up godly leaders, that He will reveal to us our own biases, and that we can be a part of the work of reconciliation that is so close to His heart.
In our work with transracial adoptive families, Nightlight has worked to educate families well on issues related to parenting children of color. We are seeking to strengthen our education and thinking through ways that we can better support and equip our families both before and after their adoption. Part of the work we have been doing was to update the list of resources that we recommend for transracial families. There are so many new books and websites available and we have tried to compile a thorough list of helpful materials. We hope you will find some resources that will be a blessing to your family.
–Amy Eudy, Home Study Manager