Adoptive parents often worry about how adoption will impact their child. How he or she will adjust, what questions they will ask about their birth heritage, and if they will be happy. These are all-natural thoughts and healthy ones to have. Being aware of your child’s differences are important, as is maintaining his or her birth culture as they grow up, as long as it’s done correctly. Your son or daughter’s birth culture, after all, will always be a major part of their identity.
As an adoptive parent, you may feel uncomfortable acknowledging your child’s differences and fear that discussing these may cause your child to experience sadness or confusion. However, not recognizing your child’s unique traits will likely cause him or her to experience shame.
The idea of culture and the adopted child is most often considered within transracial adoptions, but it can happen within same-race adoptions as well. When raising an adopted child, it’s important to keep this in mind. Implementing and including culture into your son or daughter’s life is crucial to their development and will help them feel more confident overall.
Definition of Terms
The Cambridge Dictionary defines culture as “the way of life of a particular people.” Merriam-Webster states that culture encompasses “customary beliefs, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious or social group.” Another way of describing culture would be a group of people who live within their own little world or subgroup. They have their own way of doing things and are defined by their tastes in music, arts, food, etc. Each known race and ethnicity, in essence, make up individual sects of culture.
Think about how you were raised. How your family operated. That in of itself could be labeled as its own culture. So, when you add in a different culture or race, what happens? The dynamic changes and adjustments need to be made.
Why Culture is Important
Making adjustments to accommodate additional cultures is necessary. Without it, your son or daughter won’t feel whole. An important part of his or her identity will be missing. Your relationship with your child could also suffer, as he or she may feel like you don’t care about where they came from.
As an adoptive parent, you may feel the topic of culture and the adopted child is better left alone. That bringing it up will only cause issues for your child as they grow up, and leaving it alone will somehow suppress any and all potential questions or trauma. If this sounds like you, know that you’re not alone. Your parental instincts are kicking in gear, and you’re wanting to protect your son or daughter as much as you can.
However, not telling your child about where they came from — or recognizing it — causes more harm than good. Questions are going to happen either way. From friends, family or from your child. So, wouldn’t it better to be prepared?
Culture and Identity
When you’re asked about where you’re from, do you ever think twice? For most, the answer is no. You can easily rattle off the hospital where you were born and the state if it was different from where you are currently living. You may even throw in some details about your heritage for good measure. What’s more, you can do this with confidence and without a single shred of doubt. Because you know who you are and where you came from. You are comfortable with your culture and identity.
Not all adoptees are able to do this. Particularly if their birth culture isn’t acknowledged. When posed with the question of “where did you come from?” it’s not uncommon for adoptees to freeze or answer with something their parents told them to say. The person asking, of course, won’t know the difference, but your child will. Doubt will surface, leaving your son or daughter to wonder if what the person said was actually true. If no truth is readily available, inner turmoil will occur each time your child voices the practiced reply. Sadly, lifelong Identity crisis’ among adoptees aren’t uncommon, making the concept of culture and the adopted child paramount. The struggle doesn’t end without the much-needed answers.
Adoption for children is already fraught with feelings of abandonment or rejection. Forgetting to mention or show a connection with their birth culture could irrevocably compound the issue. Not to mention destroy their trust and faith in you. So, intertwining the culture of your adopted child should happen from the moment he or she joins your family.
Culture and the Adopted Child
Be sure to implement your child’s culture no matter what. It’s important. Necessary. Vital. It will enforce how much you care about him or her and establish a deeper connection between you both. Even though it may seem like a small thing, to your son or daughter it’s a part of who they are. They need to know that there’s nothing shameful about where they came from and that they have your full support.
Adoption Choices of New York
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
“Adopted Children’s Cultural Identity.” Brain, Child, www.brainchildmag.com/2013/06/adopted-childrens-cultural-identity/.
Lang, Anne Adams. “When Parents Adopt a Child and a Whole Other Culture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Mar. 2000, www.nytimes.com/2000/03/08/news/identity-when-parents-adopt-a-child-and-a-whole-other-culture.html.
“Teaching Your Adopted Child About Their Birth Culture.” Adoptive Families, 20 Feb. 2019, www.adoptivefamilies.com/transracial-adoption/adoption-culture-heritage/birth-culture-camps-heritage-travel/.