How We Embrace Different Cultures & How It Relates to Adoption
We could talk about race, culture, and diversity until we’re blue in the face. It’s such a loaded, yet valid conversation in today’s world. Within the adoption community, there’s many conversations regarding transracial, interracial, and international adoption and how to embrace different races and cultural practices to help your adopted child learn about and embrace their biological roots. Now, you will find a million different opinions on the right way/wrong ways to incorporate your child’s culture in to your family. It’s actually quite a controversial topic. I personally don’t believe in any one right or wrong way to incorporate your child’s culture in to your family. I think that it’s different for every single family and their family dynamic.
I am half Mexican, my husband is Caucasian, my oldest daughter is Caucasian/Puerto Rican (3.5 yrs old), and my youngest daughter is Caucasian (2.5 yrs old). We also have another little babe on the way who will be Mexican/Caucasian. We have a nice little blend of skins colors and hair textures in our little family and it’s one of my favorite things about us. One of my biggest goals as a mother is to ensure my children feel wholly and completely embraced by our family and those whom we surround ourselves with. In turn, I want to teach my children to always have open minds and equally embrace the different beliefs, races, cultures of others they encounter throughout their lifetime. Not only does this embrace all different races and cultures, but it’s also fully embracing all different types of families. This includes families by adoption, foster families, step-families, same-sex parent families, transracial families, etc. I believe that this kind of openness and inclusion can ultimately bring my children so much peace and empowerment regarding their own backgrounds and adoption stories. I am by no means an expert on this subject…not even close. I’m always looking for reputable sources to collect information on or find resources that resonate with me and my family. There is so much to learn. And as a busy mama of two toddlers (plus a soon-to-be newborn), I am always just doing the best I can without putting unrealistic pressure and expectations on myself to do everything perfectly. Adoption, in general, is a huge learn-as-you-go curve and will continue to be for a lifetime. But if you’re having trouble figuring out tangible ways to teach your child(ren) about openness to all types of people or about their own biological roots, here are some simple things our family does to help teach our children about how beautiful all the different people and families in the world are.
- Books rock. They free you of having to come up with the right, kid-friendly dialect to explain what can be difficult topics. We have so many books that talk about children all over the world, their families, and how they live. There are pictures of different types of housing, foods, school classrooms, and clothing. Here are just a few books about different races and types of families that my children have particularly enjoyed.
This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
Children Around the World by Donata Motanari
Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Long
A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary
Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin
To Be a Kid by Maya Ajmera
- Explore different languages for fun. My dad’s entire family is Mexican so I was exposed to Spanish a lot growing up. I am teaching my kids Spanish and although they are only 2 and 3 years old, they know short phrases and we will incorporate it in to our household more as they get older. If you don’t know a different language, that’s okay! Get a few easy books that are Spanish/English (or anything other language combination) and just read it. Keep it simple and stick to classics so you know the gist of the story as you stumble through a different language. It doesn’t matter if you pronounce the words correctly. It lets your kids see that you’re not afraid to explore a new language or culture. Flashcards are also great when beginning to see a different language since they are short, memorable words. Start by just learning a few colors or foods first and grow from there. We also attend a monthly Spanish Storytime at our local library! I love that there is a variety of families that attend and my children can see other kids that have different colored skin or eyes from them. The books are always in Spanish so they don’t understand everything but we’re there to learn! Here’s a few of our toddler’s favorite bilingual books.
First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
Colors/Colores by Roger Priddy
Mi Primer Libro del Cuerpo/My First Body Book by DK
Buenas Noches, Luna by Margaret Wise Brown
- Cultural Events. This can be a bit tougher, especially if you’re in a smaller city. But I try hard to seek out cultural events near us that we can attend to provide us with a new experience. For example, our local Indian Nation has an annual pow wow festival open to the public. There are food vendors, art, shopping, activities and people dressed in traditional Indian gear and paint. There is music, drums, and singing. It is truly a beautiful site to see and allows our family to see and experience something different! Our community also holds an annual Mexican Fiesta as a fundraiser for one of the local schools that we always try to attend. There is traditional Mexican bands and dancing and, of course, delicious food! We also attend Multi-cultural Storytime at our local library that features a new country and story each month.
- Everyday Activities. It’s so easy to get comfortable and stay in our tiny corner of our town or neighborhood. But this limits our openness to other experiences and growth. Since becoming a mom, I’ve evaluated our daily routine and places we frequently go. As I did this, I realized that it wasn’t exposing my children to different races or cultures at all. These are simple changes that you can make to expose your child to so much more. So, with some extra effort, we started visiting the children’s recreation center on the other side of town that has a more diverse gathering of people. I purposely reached out to other adoptive families who are also transracial families to schedule play dates. We attended the public swimming pool this summer instead of the small pool in our neighborhood. I purposely sought out an African American hairdresser for us to go to who was particularly helpful in caring for my oldest daughter’s hair. Although we’re a few years from starting our kids in school, my husband and I are currently looking to move to a different part of town that would allow our children to go to the most diverse public school in our city. Find a new doctor who is of a different race. Look for opportunities to reach out or befriend people of a different race to learn from.
I think that as long as you’re aware and talking about race and diversity with your children, you’re doing great! It’s certainly a learning curve. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other parents and ask for advice. If you’re lucky enough to know adult adoptees, ask them about their experiences and opinions on such topics. Start having these conversations with your kiddos as soon as possible! We started reading books and talking about our skin colors, hair, and eyes when our daughters were only months old. So, these topics have become “normal” for us and that makes it so much easier to discuss openly. I believe that these conversations are also teaching our children so much about our story as a family and how all types of families should be embraced and accepted.