Develop Your Child's Social Skills
You and your child should be prepared to face prejudice and ignorance about your adoption. No matter how much you love your child and how color blind you may be, you must equip her with the social skills she'll need to function in a society that still has racist components. In doing so, you can help her develop confidence and pride in her ethnic heritage. That pride can be part of her identity as a unique member of the family.
Most parents report that the main challenge they face is not knowing quite what to do. A study at the University of Texas involved two groups of thirty African American middle-class adolescents, one group adopted by Black families, the other by White families. The researchers concluded that the most successful transracial outcomes were when White adoptive parents had ties to the Black community, lived in integrated neighborhoods, and sent their children to integrated schools. This study shows that if you can create a family that has connections to other racial groups, your child will benefit from it.
Being active with a support group can help you, especially if you can meet together and introduce your children to one another. So-called “culture camps” have popped up around the country where school-aged and adolescent children adopted from India, the Ukraine, Korea, and other countries can meet other children adopted from their particular region. These camps advertise online and in publications like
You may find out, as many adoptive parents have reported, that the racism and biases you encounter come from all races. It can be quite shocking to realize that people of all colors and backgrounds can hold these divisive beliefs.
You will be challenged to equip your racially different child to deal with racism without the bitterness that can only escalate problems. Society is gradually becoming more accepting of mixed heritages and biracial families, but your child may still be the focus of some sort of racist comment or attitude at some point, especially if you live in a community that isn't very diverse. Stand behind your child; don't fight her battles, but give her the tools to handle hurt or anger. Pretending this kind of situation will never happen is neither realistic nor helpful.
How can I handle an upsetting confrontation when my child is too young to understand the words but senses the hostility?
First, walk away from it without causing a scene if you can. Children under age five or six can be reassured afterward with a hug and a dismissive, “That person was certainly upset, huh?” from you. They will follow your lead: If you don't act agitated or like something is wrong, they won't pay much attention.
Role-playing can be very effective, especially if you have input from friends of color. Act out a situation with your child in which someone says a racially inappropriate comment. Suggest ways to handle it and allow your child to practice. It can be helpful to discuss with an older child what kinds of racial slurs she might hear — you wouldn't want your child to be caught unaware by a name she has never heard before.
Modeling is another way to help your child. Allow her to see how you respond to comments or behaviors that negatively comment on race or biracial families. Hearing and observing how you respond will give your child a good example of what to do. In addition, interact with other parents who've adopted transracially; your child needs relationships with other children who are in the same situation as she is.