What to Know When Adopting a Child of a Different Race

When you become an adoptive parent, you may not always be placed with a child who looks similar to you or your family. A transracial adoption occurs when a child is placed with a family of a different race or culture than their own. This brings unique challenges to the adoptive family as they attempt to navigate the waters of this transracial adoption. Not everyone will be up to the challenge of this specific type of adoption. It is ultimately something that each couple or person will need to decide on their own.

You may find it helpful to understand the differences between a traditional adoption and a transracial adoption before you make a decision. There are some things that you will want to do differently to help the child grow up with a greater sense of self-esteem, pride for where they came from, and an understanding of their history. Here are a few things that parents will need to ensure they do with their adopted child in a transracial adoption.

Tell your children about adoption and their heritage as early as possible.

It is inevitable that a child will quickly realize that they don’t look like their mother and father in a transracial adoption. Telling them about their adoption and their cultural heritage as early as possible is important for their self-esteem. This teaches them that their adoption is a beautiful thing instead of something to be ashamed of. When they see that you have pride in their culture or their race, they understand that they can have that same attitude toward where they came from.

Share parts of their culture.

Every culture has items that are important to their daily life. For some cultures, the emphasis might be on certain foods while others have many unique holidays throughout the year. Do extensive research on your child’s culture before they come home and while they are growing up. Try to incorporate some of these important elements into your family life so they can begin to understand their own heritage. Try decorating your house with some of the authentic and traditional elements used in your child’s culture.

You may even look for local festivals and communities that celebrate the same heritage. Many cities have restaurants from different areas, parties around special holidays, and more. You can even throw your own party to celebrate a unique holiday, inviting family and friends to join you. This can enrich your entire family and stretch your worldview just a little bit. Overall, it can be a fun way to celebrate the differences in your family and learn new things.

Talk about race openly.

Conversations about race are going to be inevitable when your child doesn’t look like you. Make sure that you are having conversations about race issues and racism as early as possible and in an age-appropriate manner. As your child gets older, you might want to invite a close family friend from the same culture to speak to your child about these issues. They likely have a far better understanding than you do of what it is like to live in that culture and deal with the reactions of other people.

Find role models that look like your child.

Your child needs to see successful adults that look just like he or she does. For some adoptive families who live in predominantly white neighborhoods, this can be a bit tricky. Celebrate sports heroes, activists, and famous speakers who share the same culture, just to get started. As you move further along and the child ages, you must be willing to extend your boundaries and reach out to other parts of the community. Your child should be able to see teachers, police officers, and other leaders in the community who closely resemble them.

These role models give them someone to look up to, provide a resource for them to ask questions about their heritage, and make them feel a little more at ease with who they are. In a transracial adoption, these people may be able to speak more easily about your child’s race or culture than you can. It can boost their self-esteem and make them into more confident teens and adults when they see how successful someone else like them can be.

On a related note, it is helpful if you already have friends who look like your child. This makes it significantly easier to create role models for your child. Many families are tempted to adopt transracially only to realize that they have no friends or family members who look like their soon-to-be child. As the child grows older, this can make them feel more isolated and alone with their unique culture.

Consider the opinions of your friends and family members.

Remember that your child will be exposed to other family members and friendships that you hold dear. You have to consider how these people feel about cultures other than their own and if they are vocal about their negative positions. If so, you will need to have a very frank and honest conversation with them about the possibility of your transracial adoption. Explain to them well in advance why their position on other cultures may be inappropriate and that these topics will not be tolerated around your new child. You don’t want your new little one to grow up hearing from friends and family members that their culture isn’t something to be celebrated.

Even when the child and parents look different from one another, the love they share is still the same. A transracial adoption adds an extra layer of thought and consideration for prospective adoptive families. You do have to think about how you will handle issues related to another culture or race so that your child can grow up to be happy and well-adjusted. Consider how well your family could incorporate some of these basic ideas into your lifestyle before you decide whether the beauty of a transracial adoption is right for your family.

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