Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand. (Chinese Proverb)
With Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) preparations in the works for next month, and the Autumn Moon Festival (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Zhongqiu Jie (中秋节), or Moon Cake Festival) just around the corner, we’re in a busy mode.
Although my daughters do not like moon cakes, they do enjoy lighting and carrying the lanterns, watching the dancing, listening to folktales, and eating Chinese food while the moon rises. I fully believe that it is important to honor these rich traditions and celebrations. My girls are Chinese.
I want to encourage parents to integrate and celebrate their children’s cultures of origin, while also balancing them with their family’s culture. Celebrating your child’s culture of origin promotes a number of things:
- Engagement = MORE: By celebrating, you likely absorb knowledge, and therefore tools of perspective and empathy about your child’s ethnicity, race, history, and culture of origin. You will possibly be able to address any fears or biases you may hold (see positive identity formation bullet below).
- Support: You will be able to assist your child and help her establish pride in her birth heritage if you have that knowledge of history and cultural appreciation. You develop an awareness of how she can fit into her ethnic and racial cultures and guide her in becoming part of them without making it a big deal.
- Recognition: You can be authentic in affirming to her that you appreciate and honor who she is, where she was born and what that means. Recognize that she has more than one identity as an adopted child, and help her understand and embrace this. Both identities (birth and adopted) need to be valued, and celebrated.
- Positive Identity Formation: Direct contact and connection fosters understanding, pride and resilience. Research shows that this is likely to become more important to her as she grows up. Do not become defensive if your child begins to feel an attachment to her cultural, ethnic or racial group. Do not keep her isolated from or acknowledge her ethnicity or race. This is part of her identity.
There are times when your child may push back, when she isn’t all that into her birth heritage. Identity struggles ebb and flow. My advice is to not push it, but listen and observe. Toss out those pebbles and be patient. Opportunity to talk and explore will happen again.
Parents: What’s worked for you? Have you made any changes as far as honoring or celebrating your child’s culture of origin was she has become older?