Transracial Parenting -- Advice from an Adoptive Mother
“Obviously I think parenting my children, who also happen to be Afro-Colombian, is the biggest privilege and blessing I have ever been given. But with that privilege also comes a pretty huge responsibility.
“In preparation for our adoption, we attended seminars and discussed with our social worker issues regarding race, culture & identity. However, the real preparation was done outside of this on our own. The Internet became our main tool. It was here I really first learned the term "white privilege" and what it mean. I realized that as a white person I had gone through life unaware & ignorant to many things that people of color face. I am also the first to admit that at times I am also daunted & worried by the responsibility we have accepted.”
Issue #1 – Be prepared for positive attention
“My children are still young & cute and are often complimented. But I recognize this is also partly because they are different. We, as a family, look different. There has been and will be times when my children will be tired of the attention.” [Editorial comment: I think that constantly being reminded that your family is different can become tiresome and it is something adoptive families often mention as a concern].
Issue #2 – Be prepared for negative attention
“I am also not naive enough to think that the attention they get will always be positive. Thus far we have not experienced any form of racism within our own community - quite the opposite. But we have visited a town where there are many problems amongst the indigenous & non indigenous people. There, my child has been looked at distastefully because of her skin color. It was both a shock & realization when it happened. It was subtle, but my husband & I both felt it. Fortunately, our daughter was only small at that time.”
Advice – How to prepare for the Issues
Suggestion #1 – Ask yourself tough questions
“Before you decide to adopt an Afro-Colombian child, you should ask yourself some hard questions. Be really honest with yourself. There is no shame in being honest and saying, ‘No, I don't think I can handle that situation.’ You do the child no favors if do not feel you can handle the situations that are bound to arise.”
“Step out of your own comfort zone knowing that there will be many times that your child unwittingly has too. Are you prepared to get uncomfortable for your child and yourself?”
Here are some suggestions:
“How will I handle the questions?
How will I react?
What will I do if A, B & C happens?
How will we prepare our children for A,B or C? (The time will come when we are not there or when they are old enough to understand what is happening.)”
Suggestion #2 – Communication
“Someone once said to me that the most important thing you can do for your child is to empower them. Give them the confidence & ability & the knowledge to be able to handle & deal with issues & situations if they arise. Talk & talk with your child about anything & everything. Let them know that they can always talk to you & you will always listen to them.”
“Also read, listen & read. Here are some good children’s books: All the Colors We Are, The Color of Us, The Skin You Live In, Black baby, White Hands, I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla, The Color of Difference, and Inside Transracial Adoption.”
Suggestion #3 – Talk with Adult Adoptees
"Adult adoptees who have lived the experience are the best resource available. Granted some of them are growing up during different eras & in different areas/countries. Not every experience will be the same, but they are out there willing to speak. So be willing to hear them even when they are not necessarily saying what you are wanting to hear or reporting 'happy' experiences."
Suggestion # 4 – Find a Balance
"Find a balance - don't overkill race/culture/identity. And don't make them feel excluded from your own culture. There needs to be a balance. Remember that mostly your child just wants to be & feel "normal" & that they belong & if they are happy, healthy & living life to the fullest, then that is what's most important.
"My daughter has at times in her life wished she were white or wished I was brown. She has wished that she came from "my belly". She has wished for straight blonde hair. All of this is normal in my opinion & I am glad she will speak about these things. In countering, I never discount her feelings, rather, I use every opportunity to also instill in her how much we love her beautiful skin, hair etc.
Suggestion #5 – Prepare your home
"We decided once we knew we were being blessed with a beautiful Afro-Colombian baby girl that her room would not be decorated in Barbie. Fortunately, these days, there is an array of colored dolls, books, and movies depicting children of every race. Our children have dolls of every color including white. I always look for books that depict race, disability, etc. & check their content.
"We travel to attend Colombian events & other cultural activities and our children enjoy these a lot. We are also all learning Spanish and attempting to cook & try different Colombian meals. We listen to lots of music from Colombia, and our home is full of Colombian arts, crafts & books."
Suggestion #6 – Prepare to Care for your Child’s Needs
“It is important to recognize that there are differences in hair and skin care. Good reading resources for your child & yourself include the yahoo group –adoptionhair_skincare
And the following books -- It's all good hair and Kinky Kreations"
Suggestion #7 – Seek Out People of Color
“Speak to people of color; seek them out. I believe from any country is helpful. Seek out your family & friends of diverse backgrounds. If you don't have them make some new ones. You can never have too many. We also maintain contact and share close friendships with other transracially adopted families, and we get together with them when we can.”
Suggestion #8 – Prepare and Educate Extended Family and Friends
“Also educate those that will interact with your child. You do not have to be 'over the top', but sometimes it important that you point something out. Many people are simply not aware. Remember you were also possibly one of those people.
"Remember that you are not going to agree with everything you read/hear/see. Just be open to different experiences & opinions. You might learn something & remember your child did not choose this for themselves so if you make a decision to adopt you need to be aware & prepared to parent the child you are blessed with.”
Here is another great resource:
CORPORACION CASA DE LA CULTURA AFROCOLOMBIANA.NIT. 830.097.462-7 Tele. 243 90 69 Fax 336 72 04 Cra. 5 No. 26 – 52 Bogotá, D.C.E-mail: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org