Falling in love knows no racial boundaries and it is the same with adoption. Many families have transracial adoptions – integrating two cultures into one home. However, it will come with extra responsibilities for adoptive parents. Your child should know their heritage. Their native language, customs and country of origin. In order to do this, you have to be knowledgeable about those topics yourself.
Adoptive children, while being welcomed into their new family, might feel a sense of confusion or lack of belonging. As your baby grows older, they might start to question their identity. How they view the world and themselves has a lot of impact on their growth.
Knowing Your Child
By learning about different cultures, it is not only an advantage to the child, but also helpful for you as it allows you to learn more about what makes your child different from you. You are showing them acceptance when you are open to discussions and activities relating to their heritage.
Here is a playbook for integrating culture into your family’s lifestyle.
One of the easiest things you can do is to decorate the house with some items from your child’s culture. It will be a source of comfort and joy for the child for you to honor a part of your child’s identity. Things you can put around the house can include artworks, children’s book, and some little ornaments to represent something of their culture.
Be careful to not go overboard with the decorations as it can overwhelm the child. Start with a few small things and if the child responds well to it, then you can decide what to do next.
Learning the language
It is obvious that if your child speaks another language before coming into your family, you should try to learn it to communicate or even just to get a better understanding of your child. In some instances, it might be that your newborn baby or infant will not have a default language. Even if that’s the case, you should still learn their birth language and encourage them to learn it too.
Language is a great tool to connect you to other people and to culture. It will give your child more opportunities to explore in the future. And if your adoption is an open adoption, it can help connect the child to their biological family as well.
You don’t have to be advanced in that language but at least know how to start a conversation like hello, how are you, thank you, I love you, goodbye, and so on. There are many smartphone apps and books you can use to learn quickly like Duolingo or Memrise, which are quick and simple to use.
A new recipe
Food is another great way to integrate culture while bringing people together. As your child grows older, you can begin to play around with some new recipes for dinner. Once your child is old enough, you can have them help you prepare the meal. That way, they will learn more about the food of their culture and it can serve as a bonding time for your family.
On that note, take your child to the market of their culture. They will be exposed to people who are like them to feel more comfortable in their own skin. And with you by their side, they will know that they’re not alone in the world.
Practice some traditions or customs
Once you start learning more about the culture, you’ll come to realize the many holidays or festivals that are pivotal to that location. To begin, you can research a few major holidays like their version of New Year or Thanksgiving. Then you can plant some small decorations in the house to make the place more festive and welcoming.
If possible in your area, you should take your child to visit a location where those celebrations are happening. For example, for Chinese Lunar New Years, many Asian temples and churches will have some events on the day of or that weekend. If you want to dress the part, just search up what is appropriate to wear or bring. However, when that isn’t possible, you can always do something at home. What’s important is for your child to feel that you really value and respect their culture.
Along with that, you can try practicing some customs that your child might like to participate in like throwing their tooth on the roof to ensure a new one will grow its place in Greece or using knives and forks to eat everything in Norway.
Books and toys
With books, don’t buy one that is completely in that language unless you understand the content and are comfortable with speaking. For beginners, start with picture books or bilingual ones. This way, you can teach them both English and a little bit of their birth language as well. Then when your child is able to comprehend more information, you can read books about their homeland and culture.
As for toys, you should try and find one that signifies something meaningful to their birth country or depicts their culture accurately. Multicultural Barbies can be a great start. If that doesn’t have enough options, Internet shops like Etsy are certain to have something to fit what you’re looking for.
Seeing things in books or television cannot compare to seeing them in real life. For the child to see their country of origin and be surrounded by people who look like them might be advantageous to their identity development. If this is something you choose to do, be prepared to handle any overwhelming emotions or stress that your child might feel. But do make sure to talk about the location in a good light.
However, traveling is not financially feasible for many families. There are still many places you can travel to that is within your budget, like a museum or seminars.
Your Family Playbook
Whether you decide to pick up a new language or set off to an unknown destination with your child, make sure to have fun with the integrating of culture. Don’t do it if you feel stress or unhappiness. If you’re stuck, ask yourself what you would want in your own playbook. There is no wrong or right way to do things, as long as you have your child’s best interest at heart.
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
Lisa Truong is an undergraduate journalism major at the University of Denver. She is minoring in writing and Chemistry. She has been commended by professors for her news stories as well as creative writing.
During her freshman year, her essay “See Ya on the Other Side” was displayed at a writing exhibition sponsored by the University of Denver. That essay later went on to be published in Many Voices One DU, a book also sponsored by the university.
Lisa frequently volunteers to be a leader at the Daniels School of Business for their quarterly Ethics Boot Camp where students learn about the importance of character in business. In her free time, Lisa enjoys watching animated movies with her mother, listening to music, going for bike rides, and eating breakfast food.
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Esme. “10 Ways to Keep Your Adopted Child’s Cultural Connection.” ESME. January 16, 2017. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://esme.com/resources/adoption/help-your-adopted-child-maintain-a-cultural-connection.
Godwin, David, Nicole, Fitz, Judy, Zoe, Lainie, Judi Lundberg, Judi, Richard P., Richard P., Deanna Willett, Morgan, Rebecca, and Budgeting Babe. “14 Ways to Incorporate Birth Culture, Especially Adoptive Families.” Kid World Citizen. January 23, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://kidworldcitizen.org/14-ways-to-incorporate-culture-into-your-childrens-lives/.
“Preserving the Culture of Your Adopted Child.” Adoption Choices of Nevada. January 26, 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019. https://www.adoptionchoicesofnevada.org/preserving-the-culture-of-your-adopted-child/.