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.  

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