Your Family's New Culture

So, after preparing yesterday's post, I thought it might be nice to see what other adult adpotees think. I started doing some research and found that adult Colombian adoptees are not alone. It would seem that the issue of teaching culture and learning about and feeling a part of one's roots is important to many adult adoptees, no matter their country or race of origin.

There is a wonderful site called Informed Adoption Advocates. It offers many many ideas and resources for adoptive parents. There is one particular article I found very helpful in this discussion: DRIVE BY CULTURE by Jae Ran Kim.

Here are the highlights I wanted to focus on:

The author, adopted from Korea, participated in an adult adoptee panel. Each of the adoptees had had varying experiences with leaning about their "culture". While, in the author's case, her culture had been ignored, other adoptees had had their culture "pushed" on them. [I think of a family I met when I lived in San Francisco that would take their adopted Chinese daughter and drop her off at Chinese school every Saturday. However, unlike her classmates that were forced to practice their budding Chinese skills at home, she had no one to practice with. She kept falling behind. She hated it, but her parents were convinced they were doing her a favor by making her learn about her culture.]
The conclusion, however, by all of the adult adoptees was that , and I quote, "It was not enough. We all struggled with our racial identity. We all felt like outsiders within our family and outsiders within our racial communities. It's not that we didn't feel loved, because I know that each of us on the panel never felt excluded or differentiated in that sense. "

Just as the parents listening to the panel had felt confused, so did I. What is a conscientious parent to do? It seems that there needs to be something that we, as adoptive parents, can do to help our child/ren feel a part of their culture, learn about it, but without shoving it down their throats.
The advice that the author gave was the following, "...each child will be different and their needs will be different over time. But, the choice to be involved in the child's community should never be dependent on the child."
Ms. Kim goes on to say the following:

"What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that there will be times that the child won't want to attend culture camp, language lessons, or have tacos on Tuesday and egg rolls on Wednesday. But being part of the child's community is more than those things, which amount only to cultural tourism. Being part of the community is dependent on the adults. The parents. It's that the parents attend a Korean church or a Black church for themselves. Because they value it. It's not about "dropping the kids off at the curb" and coming back to pick them up later. That suggests that culture and diversity is the kid's job."

Ms. Kim also suggests that parents should spend time in their child's culture prior to adoption. Perhaps, if visiting Colombia is not possible, then get to know Colombians in your area. Try attending church is Spanish (our family does). If there are simply NO COLOMBIANS in your area, at least try to meet other Hispanics. If you can't love your child's culture, your child WILL pick up on it. It will be clear in the things that you say and what you do.

"It’s a responsibility that for our childrens’ sake, we transracially adoptive parents should not evade. If we want our children to know that we accept them for exactly who they are, a genuine desire to be with and respect people who share their ethnic background is an important aspect of showing–rather than saying–how we feel."

I think that this question sums up best the point to this discussion: "Do you see it (Colombia) as "their" community, or is it truly the whole family's community?"

You can read the entire article at this site:

* photo by zugg55


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