Many outside the transracial family’s inner and closely related outer circle don’t see a family. They see mismatched adults and children, typically white parents and non-white kids. On top of that, even in today’s efforts to be “politically correct,” many people miss the mark by making insensitive comments or asking intrusive questions, although sometimes well-meaning, of adoptive parents and their children.
Tonight I’m teaching one of my favorite classes—Transracial Parenting, to some of my favorite people—parents who parent or will be parenting transracially (parenting a child of a different race than theirs). Part of the class entails role-playing.
Often parents are a bit uncomfortable at first, laughing or being a bit silly with their remarks… or silent. They usually don’t know each other, or if they do, not well. They don’t know me. And we are examining and working through important, very sensitive and, for many, unfamiliar parenting territory.
Invariably, the mood shifts as parents dig in, realizing the brevity needs to be parked. We are speaking about their children. We are discussing real relationships—those of parents, children and families—sometimes challenged by the plethora of comments and questions that are part of the transracial family and parenting landscape.
The parents become engaged, thoughtfully thinking through how they are going to handle the myriad of situations that will occur: those that take place with their children out of earshot; those addressed to them with their children present; how to educate and support their children about bias, prejudice and racism; and how to help their children respond to and process situations when they are older and not under the umbrella of their parents’ white privilege. Parents are preparing for what is to come, becoming proactive, and learning that they will also be in the ongoing position of educating others and advocating for their children, their family, adoption, and transracial and multiracial families. In a sense, passing it on.
Parents: Questions and comments happen everywhere and in an instant. How prepared are you to handle them, especially when they take place in front of or are addressed directly to your child? What have you passed on to your child to empower him/her to handle the situation and still feel great about him- or herself?