Tuesday, September 25, 2018

10 Ways Parents Can Support Their Transracial Adoptee

Choosing to adopt transracially means choosing a life of continual effort to make sure your child feels safe, loved, appreciated, respected, and affirmed.

Here are ten ways you can support your transracially adopted child:  

1:  Find a mentor for your child.

I've written and spoken about this SO many times because it's that important.  Finding a mentor can be challenging, because you want someone who is the right fit for your family and your child.  But once you find that person (or persons), the relationship can be incredibly beneficial for your child.  Read my comprehensive post on finding a mentor here

2:  And while you're at it, find a mentor for yourself.

Learning from someone who is a person of color (who racially matches your child) is one of the most important decisions you will make on your parenting journey.  Just like your child needs a mentor, you do too!  This person can help you navigate situations your child may face.  It could be anything from a teacher not pronouncing the child's name correctly to outright, blatant racism.  You also can utilize advice on hair care, for example. 

3:  Buy positive media that reflects your child's race.

This includes books, movies, art work, and music.  I think it's important to show your children people who look like them in as many careers as possible and avoid limiting to stereotypes (basketball and entertainment, for example).  Let's take music genres for example. There are some incredible contemporary Black country artists:  Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, and Mickey Guyton.  Do not limit the media to history, especially only materials focusing on slavery and civil rights, as explained in this fabulous article by Denene Millner, a woman of color and adoptee.  

4:  And while we're at it...toys, too.

There are so many fantastic toys that tell our kids that they matter!  Dolls, action figures, puzzle sets, etc.  Be sure that when you're selecting these, they are items that portray your child of color in a positive, leadership role:  one of strength and respect.  Too often, people of color are relegated to roles of the white person's sidekick or the villain.  The awesome thing?  I have found an increasing number of Black-owned companies creating toys for children of color, as well as a general change in the toy industry to be inclusive of children of color.   One example includes superhero items featuring children of color

5:  Carefully choose where you live-work-play-worship.

This is a big one, and certainly one that should be considered, if possible, BEFORE a transracial adoptive placement.  Where you live-work-play-worship sends your child a powerful message about his or her place in the world.   And of course, the more people who look like your children, the more they will feel less "othered" and more included and accepted.  If you are currently in a position in which you cannot possibly move, you need to "go the distance":  driving your family to places where there are opportunities for diversity (think YMCA for gymnastics class, as an example).  However, I want to emphasize that moving to a more diverse area should be in your soon-to-happen plans.  

6:  Expand your circle of friends.

This should be an always.  You should ALWAYS be expanding your circle of friends.  And I don't think you should limit this to racial diversity.  Any type of diversity helps broaden hearts and minds:  age, religion, orientation, etc.  However, race should be the most important.   Because without friends of color, who will you go to with the challenges you face as you raise your child?  Who will you trust with your child's struggles?  

7:  Maintain an open adoption if it's a healthy option.

Your child can receive racial affirmation from his or her biological family.  Now, I have written extensively on open adoption.  It is certainly not always healthy or possible.  But if it is healthy and possible, find ways to make it work:  Skype sessions, texting, even good-old-fashioned letter writing.  Visits are wonderful, again if it's healthy for the adoptee and possible.  I know.  Open adoption can be really intimidating, but it can be incredibly rewarding and beneficial to the adoptee.  

8:  Keep educating yourself.

You should NEVER stop educating yourself on issues that your child's racial community faces.  You can do this by, of course, having friends of color.   But also excellent reading materials, including books, magazines, blogs, news outlets, etc.  You can attend natural hair workshops, meet with your mentor (point #2) regularly, etc.  Don't forget that race and adoption are intricately woven together, so be sure to read materials and listen to information provided by transracial adoptees; I share many suggestions on my Facebook page.  Educating yourself is a never-ending class on how to best parent your child.  

9:  Hire same-race babysitters, hair braiders, barbers, etc.

These individuals will be part of your family's "village."  You want your child to see people who look like him or her in as many places and in as many positions as possible.  Because it shows your child that his or her race matters:  it's not an afterthought, or second-best, optional, or avoidable.  Ask around to find child care, or hop on a professional child care website and browse the profiles of those offering child care services.  Find a hair braider or barber by word of mouth, plus trial and error.   

10:  Continually tap in to opportunities. 

A cultural festival, a Black history exhibit, Juneteenth celebrations, etc.  There are options out there, especially if you live in a diverse area.  Also, when you travel as a family, select where you will go based on the opportunities available such as visiting important historical places.  Again, make sure your child knows that he or she matters!  

Remember, you were chosen to parent your child.  What an incredible responsibility and honor!  Work diligently to raise your child to be confident in his or her racial identity.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

5 Things I Didn't Know Would Happen When I Became a Stay-at-Home-Mom

It was December 2012.  I had wrapped up my fourteenth semester teaching composition at our local university.  I loved my job, but I had a secret.  

In October, we were matched with an expectant mom due to have an African American baby boy in January.   We were thrilled to have the opportunity to become parents again, this time to our first son.  He would be our third child.  

While we eagerly awaited his arrival, I had to make a decision.  The spring semester was set to start just days before the baby's due date.  Being a family by adoption, we knew the risks.  We knew the baby was "the baby" and not "our baby" if and until decisions were made.  

I was on-the-fence about what to do.  Continue with the job I loved and hope I could get out of my classes if he became ours, continue the job in the case that he didn't become ours, or leave my job and "wait and see" the outcome of the adoption match.

I was tormented by this choice, but I ultimately decided to let my boss know that we were matched to adopt, and I didn't want to proceed with the semester only to leave them in a bind a few days in if the baby became ours.  

A leap of faith.

I had taken as semester off work with each baby who came our way up until that point.  I planned to do the same if baby boy became ours.  

He did.  He became ours.  

As the end of spring semester approached, I made the big decision not to return to teaching in the fall.   Mostly because teaching composition means a lot of intense, long grading sessions where I poured over stacks and stacks of student essays.  With three kids, it was hard to find part-time child care, and even if I did manage to sneak away for a grading session, it was hard to focus.   

So I made the decision to become a SAHM.

And here's what happened that I never anticipated:  

1:  I became jealous of my husband.

He got up in the morning, put on nice clothes, and spent thirty minutes driving to work, listening to whatever he wanted on the radio.  Then he spent the day in his own private office, intermittently talking to grown-ups about grown-up things, having lunch (sometimes even out at an actual restaurant or the cafeteria), and getting breaks to use the restroom (alone!).  Then he spent thirty minutes driving home, again listening to whatever he wanted to on the radio.   

2:  I'd vacillate between busyness and boredom.

Some days were sheer chaos.  Frantic.  Anxiety-ridden.  One thing after the next.  Exhaustion was the name of my game.  

Other days were boring.  There were many sick days, grouchy days, or days when nothing (activity-wise) was appealing.  I'd wonder, what is my life's purpose?  What am I here for?  Is what I'm doing meaningful?  To whom?  

3:  I was lonely.

Making mommy-friends is NOT easy.  I hosted many playdates, but some left me exhausted (the mom's kids were bad, the mom didn't offer to help pick up the tornado the kids created, etc.).  Others just weren't a "match."   And taking all my kids (ages 4, 2, and infant) at that time was next-to-impossible.  I only had two hands!  

I totally got why my mom would spend hours doing chores while chatting on the phone with her cousin or friend, the corded phone stretched far from room-to-room.  Because SAHM needs connnection.  We need reminders that we are human beings who aren't just moms.  

4: I constantly was asked to justify my decision.

To this day, I'm asked, "When are you going back to teaching?"  It's as if the sacrifices I make daily aren't quite "up there" with teaching college students.  Or that I'm somehow missing out on real life or not living up to my potential or wasting my degrees because I spent my days with babies.  

The truth is that being a SAHM is the hardest job I've ever had.  It's also the best job.   It's messy and beautiful and frustrating and fulfilling. 

The questions only made me feel guilty.  Why wasn't I more grateful for being a SAHM?   Why didn't I enjoy every. single. second.?   

5:  I'd become obsessed with my children.

When your job is to raise babies, you become obsessed with the babies.  Their every need, their every "first," their every poop incident (ya'll know it's true!).  Your life becomes your kids.

That's the point of becoming a SAHM, isn't it?  To KNOW every single thing about your kids and walk them through life?  

I'm definitely no martyr.  I know being a SAHM is a privilege, and for me, it was a choice.  But if I didn't tell you the truth, that SAHM life is REALLY damn hard, I'd be a liar. 

What happened to you when you became a SAHM?  Or did you go from being a SAHM to working full time outside the home?  What lessons have you learned?  Did adopting change your decision about working or staying home?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Things Adoptive Parents Are Tired of Hearing from their Friends and Family, and What You Can Do About It

Dismissive.  Conclusive.  Critical.  Assuming.  Over-complimentary.     

Comments from family and friends can be the most disheartening and discouraging for parents-by-adoption.  Mostly because we know that even our "nearest and dearest" can be just as uneducated on adoption as the general public.   

Having four kids and with a decade of parenting under my belt, I've learned a lot.  A lot about adoption, a lot about raising children, a lot about trauma, and a lot about special needs.  

Adoptees sometimes have needs that birth children do not.  But when our dear ones only have experience raising birth children, they tend to react to our parenting with less-than-ideal reactions that can grate our nerves, hurt our feelings, and even offend us. 

I've heard all these. Maybe you have, too? 

1:  "Have you tried...?" 

Nothing is more annoying that working your butt off for your child and hearing someone suggest a ridiculous or old school "remedy." Whether it's CIO (cry it out), an herbal supplement, a "good spankin,'" or time-outs.  We know how important attachment is for children who were adopted, and many common parenting practices are completely opposite of attaching in nature.        

2:  "It's just bad behavior."

There are absolutely times that all children behave badly.  And there are also many times adopted children are reacting, not behaving poorly, their way through a struggle.  Adoption grief can run deep, as explained in this video called "When Sad Looks Mad."  And special needs, such as a child with sensory processing disorder, cannot be "fixed" with discipline.

3:  "All children do that."  

It's so hard when someone assumes that what your child does is just "normal" behavior when it isn't.  For example, kids with sensory processing disorder can have sensory meltdowns.  Sensory meltdowns are not the same thing as tantrums.  And did you know that adoptees are more likely to have SPD than children who weren't adopted?  Other struggles like attachment and food issues may occur in non-adopted children, but in adoptees, they issues are more likely and more complex. 

4:  "It's a boy thing."  "It's a girl thing."

Nothing drives me more crazy than someone insisting that what my child is doing is because of his or her sex.  Again, when my child with SPD was having struggles with hyperactivity, many of my dear ones insisted it's "just a boy thing."  But I KNEW something else was going on, and thankfully I listened to my mommy-intuition.  With girls (I have three!), the assumption is that they are going to be emotional.  This stereotype pushes us to overlook an adoptee-girl who may be struggling with anxiety.

5:  "She looks just like you!"

This one always puzzles me.  (And yes, it's even been said to us, two white parents, of one or two of our four Black children!)  I think it's intended to be a compliment or an attempt to assure us that our child is seen as truly ours...but I'm honestly not really sure.  It's always really odd-uncomfortable-awkward to hear someone say this.  Granted, it is true that some of our kids copy our mannerisms, voice intonation, syntax, etc.   I believe sometimes this comment is a "defense" of the adoptive parents based on stereotypes regarding birth parents.

So, great.  We've heard these things, but what do we do about them?  How do we respond when a dear one says something like this to us...again?  

I believe that two things can truly change a person's thinking.  They are:

1:  Experience.

Having personal experience with something can be the catalyst for true change.  This means spending time observing and listening with an open heart and mind.  

The experience part happens naturally with your nearest and dearest if you're spending time with them.  I do realize that many families are spread out across the country (or even internationally) and don't always see each other frequently.  That's why point #2 is going to be really important for these folks!  

The key is that when experience happens, there needs to be an open heart and mind.  You may have to encourage your dear ones to be backseat observers vs. backseat drivers (advice-givers) in order to truly understand your child and your parenting.  

Additionally, you need to let your dear ones know that you are open to discussions-based on their observations and their education (#2).  Let them ask questions!  Remember, you were once a newbie too! 

2:  Education.  

There are so many fantastic resources available!  If your dear one is receptive to the experience portion, education comes next.  Send your loved on articles, even books, and videos.  Empowered to Connect is a fantastic resource; I particularly like their free videos (which are easy to pass on to others).  The two books I highly recommend you give your loved one are:  Adoption is a Family Affair and In On It.  Tailor the education to your particular child:  attachment, trauma, special needs, transracial adoption, open adoption, etc.  

And then...

As a result of experience and education, the person develops empathy.  And as a result of empathy, that person can offer you encouragement rather than advice.  

This isn't to say there will be sheer perfection.  But if a loved one is willing to make the effort to experience and get educated, he or she is well on the way to empathy and subsequently, encouragement. 

For more on empathy, experience, encouragement, and education, give me your e-mail addy, and I'll send you a free e-book on these very important areas of focus!   

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The 5 Books On Race You Must Read If You've Adopted Transracially

I have managed to devour several books this year, almost all of them focused on race.

They are deep reads.  They are challenging reads.  They are necessary reads.

As I've shared time and time again, if you decide to adopt transracially, you need to be in it for the long haul.  Many adults find melanin-rich kids "cute" when they are young, but there's a shift as the children get older.  You can see it in the adults' eyes.  You can hear it in their comments.  You can see it in their newsfeeds.  

And we, the parents, need to be prepared.  We need to get woke.  We need to stay woke.   

Here are five books I highly recommend you put on your must-read list, whether you are preparing to adopt transracially or already have:

1:  I'm Still Here:  Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

"Austin Channing Brown's first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, "I had to learn what it means to love blackness," a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America's racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion." -from Amazon description

2:  So You Want to Talk About Race

"In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today's racial landscape--from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement--offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide." -from Amazon description

3:  Dear White Christian:  What Every White Christian Needs to Know About How Black Christians See, Think, and Experience Racism in America

"In the fall of 2014, during the racial and cultural events in Ferguson, MO, Aaron Layton desperately wanted to know what was going on in the minds of his white colleagues, friends, and fellow church members. So, he did what comes naturally to him, but might seem unnatural to many. A trusted white friend responded: Here is the deal: we don't understand it; we don't know what to say; and we don't know what to do. That response propelled Aaron to action to deepen the understanding of his white friends, with the hope that greater understanding would result in a greater unity believers possess in Christ. The lessons he learned are the foundation of this book a letter to the white Christians he dearly loves, as well as those he hopes to one day meet. Dear White Christian is designed for any white Christian who seeks practical tools for beginning or continuing conversations with black brothers and sisters in Christ. As you read this book, lean into that which makes you uncomfortable. Allow this letter to give you insight and challenge you for the glory of God." -from Amazon description

4:  White Awake:  An Honest Look at What It Means to be White

"Daniel Hill will never forget the day he heard these words: "Daniel, you may be white, but don't let that lull you into thinking you have no culture. White culture is very real. In fact, when white culture comes in contact with other cultures, it almost always wins. So it would be a really good idea for you to learn about your culture." Confused and unsettled by this encounter, Hill began a journey of understanding his own white identity. Today he is an active participant in addressing and confronting racial and systemic injustices. And in this compelling and timely book, he shows you the seven stages to expect on your own path to cultural awakening. It's crucial to understand both personal and social realities in the areas of race, culture, and identity. This book will give you a new perspective on being white and also empower you to be an agent of reconciliation in our increasingly diverse and divided world." -from Amazon description

5:  The Hate U Give


"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life." -from Amazon description