When you bring a non-biological child into your home, his or her culture and differing heritage accompany them. It’s part of who they are, and a very important part of their makeup. This isn’t exclusively with international adoptions either. It happens within domestic adoptions as well. For instance, where you bring a child of a different race into your home. But, at any rate, anyone outside of your family at birth has a different background and life history. So, it’s essential to implement your child’s birth culture as they grow up in your family.
There are many ways in which to do this. Adoption Choices of New York is here to offer our suggestions. If you know of other ideas for honoring your child’s birth culture that you don’t see here, be sure to let us know.
8) Visit Art Galleries or History Museums
One of the best ways to celebrate your child’s birth culture is through visiting museums or art galleries. Be sure to include the whole family, if applicable, and make a fun day trip out of it. Research what displays will be shown at the selected museum and give it special attention. Provide the information you know about the culture, the artist or creator of the piece, and what stands out to you. For instance, how it influenced your culture or what is particularly unique about it. Keep it positive and encourage the rest of your family to participate.
If it’s just you, your partner and your child, still make a day out of it. Invite them to ask questions. Assure him or her that it’s ok to talk or ask questions, and that you want to know how they feel about their background. Ask if there’s anything specific they want to learn, or any holiday they’d like to celebrate during the year.
7) Create Ethnic Food Night
What better way to introduce other cultures than through food? As your child’s taste buds are developing, especially. Instead of mac ‘n cheese or fish sticks every night, throw in some tacos. Phad Thai. Even different kinds of pizza. Experiment with flavors and spices. When your child is older, have them join you for the prep work. Teach them how to cook each dish and share what you know about the culture that it originates from.
Food is not only a great way to connect with each other, but also with your child’s birth culture. This, in turn, will help your son or daughter feel more attached to themselves and inspire them to learn more about where they came from. As they learn, you’ll find yourself wanting to learn alongside them, creating a deeper bond that started through sharing a meal together.
6) Have a Diverse Friend/Family Circle
This is especially important with transracial adoptions. Even though he or she won’t say it, your child longs to feel like they belong, like they can identify, relate and connect with others. So, if you adopt a child of a different race and live in a same-race world, it will be a challenge for them to find where they fit.
Yet, living in a diverse neighborhood, and having a diverse group of friends and family will help your son or daughter in their adjustment process. They will feel comfortable connecting, and not so much like an outsider. Attending a school that has a variety of races will be beneficial, too. Through this, they will learn to be more accepting, open-minded and tolerant of those different than themselves.
5) Openly Discuss Culture
Promote and encourage conversations both in and out of the home. Have discussions about adoption. Culture. Talk about what’s happening in other parts of the world. Be honest about it. How you feel. Your thoughts and opinions. Don’t try to hide or avoid the topics. Your child needs to know that these things are ok to talk about, and that your family is open when it comes to controversial discussions. This will help when they have questions about their adoption story and want to know if it’s safe to come to you.
Hearing you talk about his or her birth culture and adoption will help normalize it. To transform it into a more natural topic. Openness is key. Through it, your child will learn that they can trust you, and they don’t have to feel ashamed or ungrateful when they want to bring up where they came from with you.
4) Stock Home Library
Books are incredible tools. They challenge our minds, inspire our imaginations and teach us about worlds that are both real and fictional. During the development years, one of the ways an infant learns about family structure and identifying the differences in faces is through images. Their vocabulary expands, too, through hearing a variety of words. By five months old, babies are able to recognize the full spectrum of colors, beginning with the first primary color — red.
Reading to your child is essential for their growth. Whether this is a nightly bedtime story, naptime story or an afternoon story, be sure to include book time throughout the day. When selecting stories to read, however, pay attention to the message the book is relaying. How it portrays stereotypes, cultures, relationships, and varying lifestyles. Babies and young children are impressionable and soak up information like a sponge.
To teach your son or daughter about culture and diversity in a positive way, here are two excellent book recommendations: “The Colors of Us” and “Whose Knees are These?” Check out the links to learn more about each story. Other adoption books for kids can be found here.
3) Share Pictures of Birth Culture
If you and your partner are adopting from out of state, be sure to take lots of pictures of your time in your son or daughter’s birth state. These will be wonderful keepsakes and examples to share with them when they are older. Especially when they want to learn more about where they came from or ask what it was like when you came to get him or her.
As a fun activity, you could put together a photo album for them to have. Then, when they are older, your child could create their own decorated page to add in. That way, they can proudly show the photo album to other friends and family while sharing stories of themselves.
2) Display Birth Culture in Home
Artwork or artifacts. Posters or figurines. Even something as small as a souvenir from where they were born. Anything that shows homage to your child and his or her heritage will go a long way. Whether you know it or not, your homes are personal reflections of you. Think about it. One wall could be covered in baby pictures, another could be a series of family photos spanning the years. Another could include framed artwork from a family trip.
Put simply, your home shows who you are and how you see the world. From the sense of decor and style to the members of the family. As your child is a part of your family, why wouldn’t you want something that reflects them on the walls? Something that keeps your child’s birth culture alive? Displaying something that relates to your child’s birth culture will show them and everyone else that your son or daughter is a cherished member of the family. It will also diminish the awkwardness surrounding your child’s adoption.
1) Never Ever Lie
Some may feel the need to disguise where your son or daughter came from to protect them. While that emotion may be valid, forging a story about their origin isn’t. When your child is old enough, be sure that you tell them the truth. Even if their truth contains difficult information to learn. Imparting the truth will show your child that they can trust you. At first, they will undoubtedly need space to process and readjust. Particularly when there’s more sensitive details relayed. But give them that time. It’s ok.
Never lie or tell them half-truths. Ever. It does more harm than good and may result in a severed relationship. Don’t overwhelm them either. If you need to tell them in chunks, do so. Get to know your child and recognize when they will be able to handle it. But never ever lie.
Your Child’s Birth Culture
Before your son or daughter arrives home, you and your partner should discuss how your child’s birth culture will be implemented into your daily lives. Choosing to ignore where your child came from or pretending that their birth culture doesn’t exist is highly discouraged. Adopted children struggle with many aspects of adoption as it is; thus, through acknowledging and celebrating where they came from, you will be showing them that they are loved and valued.
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.
Esme. “10 Ways to Keep Your Adopted Child’s Cultural Connection.” ESME, 16 Jan. 2017, esme.com/resources/adoption/help-your-adopted-child-maintain-a-cultural-connection.
Esme. “Maintaining Your Adopted Child’s Cultural Connection.” ESME, 5 Feb. 2016, esme.com/resources/adoption/maintaining-cultural-connection.
“Honoring Your Adopted Child’s Heritage and Culture: International Adoption.” New Beginnings, 2 May 2018, www.new-beginnings.org/teaching-your-adopted-child-about-their-heritage-and-culture/.
“Preserving the Culture of Your Adopted Child.” Adoption Choices of Nevada, 26 Jan. 2019, www.adoptionchoicesofnevada.org/preserving-the-culture-of-your-adopted-child/.