What You Need to Know to Help Your Transracially-Adopted Child Thrive


IMG_3153We white parents believe we adopt transracially with our eyes and hearts wide open.

We feel fully prepared to parent our child.

We attend the required education to become parents to our remarkable kids. Sometimes:

  • We go beyond the aesthetics presented. We read, research, and ask questions about race and racism. We take notes.
  • We foster connection, seeking to establish authentic, close relationships with people who are of the same ethnicity and race as our child. We ask them questions about their experiences, and we listen. We hold them up as role models.
  • We live in neighborhoods that are mosaics of diversity or in neighborhoods that represent our child’s ethnicity and culture of origin.
  • Our kids attend schools that are mosaics of diversity or attend schools that represent their ethnicities and cultures of origin. Educators, who represent our kids’ ethnicities and cultures of origin, teach them.
  • We keep binders, files, and bookshelves of the information we have amassed, with the intention of turning to it when needed. But…
    • How much of it is read, highlighted, and notated?
    • How much of it is written from the transracial adoptee’s perspective?
    • How much of it written by people from your child culture or origin?
    • How much of it do you understand or “listen” to?

At some point, many of us come to the realization that we are not equipped as we thought or as we had hoped. We need to have the conversations, address the issues, and come up with action plans. Perhaps a child or an adult is racist towards our child. Perhaps the local police appear to be pulling over cars driven by people who resemble your African American son. Perhaps your Chinese daughter refers to her fellow students, ethnic Chinese, as the “Asian invasion.”

Being White puts us at a disadvantage as parents of transracially adopted kids. Our whiteness and its related life experiences shape the lens through which we view and experience our world. Our whiteness and its related life experiences form our belief systems. Our whiteness is who we are because we are white.

Over 40% of adoptions are transracial. Our job as parents is to give our kids the tools to navigate successfully this crazy, and often, ugly world. We want our kids to feel safe, and to be safe. We seek to help them love themselves and who they are, including having pride in their racial and ethnic identities. Have the conversations now.

  • Color matters. Talk about race, ethnicity.
  • Educate your child about the history of her ethnicity, race, and culture of origin. Be sure to wrap it into U.S. history (or your history if a resident of another country).
  • Talking about race and racism, prejudice, and stereotyping does not make them issues. Discuss past and current events highlighting these topics.
  • Talk about marginalization and what is behind it.

Our whiteness can put our kids at a significant disadvantage if we are not aware of it and do not address it. Stepping outside our whiteness may not be comfortable or “convenient,” but it is necessary. Start now.

For Discussion: When is the best time to have discussions about race with your child? When did you begin having conversations about race, ethnicity, and prejudice? What else have you done that has helped your transracially-adopted child thrive?

~ Photo NliveN, LLC

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