Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Teaching Young Transracially Adoped Kids About Race

Informing (and empowering) your child that he or she was adopted from the very first day the child comes to you is important, and so is talking to your child about race. But the big question I get from parents is HOW?   

This is a valid question.  After all, race conversations can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, and uncertain.  If you don't racially match your child, how are you qualified to talk to your child about race?

The FIRST thing you should do is work on getting educated yourself.  Notice I say "getting educated" and not "get educated."  It's not a one-time event:  it's a marathon that NEVER should end when you are parenting kids of color. 

How do you do this?  You read articles and books by people who racially match your child.  You get your news from places like The Root and News One.  You subscribe to magazines like Essence.  You seek people of color in creative outlets like art and music.  You make sure your circle of friends is diverse.  You worship and play in places that are predominately attended by people who racially match your child.  You attend conferences, go to museum exhibits, and find a mommy mentor for yourself-a woman who racially matches your child.  (Read all my thoughts on supporting your child here.)

Yep, it's a lot of work.  But when you chose to adopt transracially, you chose to be the best mom you could to your child, which means, work.  The hardest things are often the most rewarding. 

While you're doing this (remember, you aren't going to stop), you are going to work with your child on his or her racial competency. 

Birth to age one:  What an exciting and quickly-changing time this is!  With infants, you can purchase board books featuring children of color and read them to your child.  You also want to understand racial norms:  like not cutting your son's hair until he's at least one and keeping your baby girl's hair protected and healthy, including a satin crib sheet.  Finally, get a kid-safe mirror.  Young children LOVE looking at themselves.  This is a great way to start introducing your child to his/her skin color.

One to two:  You now have a toddler who is rapidly changing.  Continue reading board books and buying art.  Introduce your child to music created by people of color.  Create playlists!   When looking for childcare, try finding a babysitter of color for your child.  You also might start exploring mommy-and-me classes; search for those in diverse areas.  Change up hair products based on the child's changing hair needs, and be sure to establish positive hair time that doesn't involve a tablet or i-pad.

Two to three:  Keep reading those books (check out our fave books for Black boys here), listening to music, buying art.  Though we aren't big TV people, Doc McStuffins (Disney) and Motown Magic (Netflix) are great shows for children this age.  Also, show your child The Snowy Day (Amazon).  Keep expanding your circle of friends, looking for diverse mommy-and-me classes, and finding diverse babysitters.  Begin exploring coloring books featuring characters of color and washable markers and crayons in skin-tone colors.

Three to four:  As you search for a preschool for your child, diversity matters!  Not only the student and school population, but the classroom materials.  Are there books, action figures, and books featuring people of color in the classroom?  Does the school acknowledge and celebrate Black history?  Keep up at home:  books, music, toys.  Children this age can handle sturdy pictures, so create a kid-safe photo album for your child and talk about the beautiful skin tones of the people in the pictures (hopefully including birth family).   This is a great age to find a great hair braider for your child or step up your game and find an excellent barber, if you haven't already done so.  Finally, this is a great age to start talking about FAMILY diversity.  

Remember, race should be acknowledged and celebrated, not ignored!   Talk early, talk often.  

And I want to encourage both you and your child to learn as you go.  Remember, you aren't going to get your "race education" in a day, week, month, or year.  It's a lifetime commitment to learning and growing.  

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