Welcoming a new child into your home is a wonderfully rewarding experience. Of course, it can also come with its challenges. After all, adjusting to life with an infant is never easy. And adoption can sometimes add additional complexities to your parenting journey – especially when adopting a child of another race (transracial adoption).
Today, more than 40 percent of adoptions are transracial in nature, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. This is up from 28 percent in 2004. However, this does not make the adjustment for parents any easier, especially in today’s racially-charged world. So, it is important to be as prepared as possible for every potential situation.
It is important to celebrate your child’s heritage and teach them about their roots. While this can sometimes be difficult for adoptive parents who want nothing more than to just live a “normal” life, it can be incredibly emotionally enriching for your child.
Our race and our culture are important parts of our identity as both individuals and as a community. Transracial adoptees can sometimes struggle with this sense of identity when they don’t look like the rest of their family. This is why it is important to embrace your child’s race and cultural identity and celebrate it.
Addressing Race & Having Difficult Discussions
“Parents who believe they can raise their child color-blind are making a terrible mistake,” says Mark Hagland, journalist and adoption literacy advocate. You cannot simply ignore your child’s race. Love may not see color, but the world definitely does. So, it’s important to prepare to have those hard conversations.
“Part of loving your child is seeing and loving the color of her skin—and accepting the reality that she will likely be painfully pigeonholed sometime in her life because of it,” writes Karen Valby, Time.
As a parent, it is your job to ensure your child is prepared for life and, sometimes, life is cruel. It is better to prepare them how to deal with difficult situations than to just simply hope they will never arise, because they inevitably will.
How to Respond to Questions about Transracial Adoption
As an adoptive parent, you will undoubtedly have to deal with nosy and even downright rude questions. Sometimes, even well-meaning individuals can be a bit too intrusive.
“These negative messages are usually, but not always, unintentional,” says Julie Higginbotham, Adoptive Families. “People have an instinct for categorization; when they see situations that don’t fit the norm, they comment.”
With transracial adoption, these questions can become even more uncomfortable. “Where is he really from?” Or, “He is so lucky that you adopted him!” Or, “How do you deal with her hair?”
It’s important to develop a plan of action to deal with these questions in a calm and respectful manner. This typically involves a two-phase approach: addressing your child and responding to the original question.
- Addressing the Child: “Despite our best efforts, the incessant questions from strangers chip away at our foundations,” says Higginbotham. So, when dealing with nosy or outright rude questions, it is important to first reassure your child that nothing about them or your family is weird or out of the ordinary. Then, once you have addressed your child, you can respond.
- Addressing the Question: “I like to use a three choice process when asked about my own adoption story. It is called the TIP process: Tell, Ignore, say it is Private,” explains Dr. Dean Kirschner, Executive Director and Adoption Counselor at Adoption Makes Family. “I can choose to tell the story of my child’s adoption. I can ignore the person, or I can say it is private.” Just remember to stay calm and be respectful. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but it is important to set a good example for your child. “Trust me, the kid is listening for your response,” says Sharon Van Epps, ESME.
Adoption Makes Family
If you are struggling with any aspect of transracial adoption, Adoption Makes Family is here to help. We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency that aims to foster a genuine connection with you so you feel like you are part of our family. We are here to help you every step of the way.
Our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.
24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100
If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.
- “Transracial Adoptees – Common Challenges & How to Cope.” Considering Adoption, https://consideringadoption.com/adopted/impact-of-adoption/transracial-adoptees.
- Valby, Karen. “The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race.” Time, https://time.com/the-realities-of-raising-a-kid-of-a-different-race/.