6. Realize racial identity develops differently for a child. Children who grow up in multiracial homes often develop their racial identity differently than a child growing up in a monoracial home. These children will often experiment with multiple racial identities and shift from one to another in short periods of time for various reasons including safety and comfort. This may include code shifting. Furthermore, the child’s racial identity in a transracial adoptive family carries a narrative burden for the child. In short, the child will be forced to carry the burden of explaining their racial identity to all curious people who inquire. Different transracial adoptees find a multitude of ways of dealing with their narrative burden.
7. Evaluate parents’ lifestyle. Parents need to determine their willingness to incorporate another racial culture in their family. It is not the child’s sole job to assimilate into to the parent’s culture but the family’s responsibility to incorporate and celebrate different racial cultures within their individual family structure. It is also important to expose the child to a variety of experiences that will help build positive self-esteem, and some of those experiences may require the parents to step out of their comfort zone. Being a multiracial family is very visible, and complete privacy is nonexistent for a transracial adoptive family. In addition, moving neighborhoods may be ultimately the best choice for the child, even when the parents are comfortable in their current neighborhood.
8. Tolerate no ethnic or racial remarks. Parents need to understand that to accept any derogatory ethnic or racial remark teaches the child that those remarks are acceptable. The child will hear remarks made about his or her own ethnic or racial heritage, even if not made by the child’s parents. Additionally most people of color know that a racial slur against any person of color is a slur against all people of color.
9. Celebrate all cultures. Parents who celebrate all cultures teach their children that there is value in all cultures. It allows parents not only to celebrate the differences but also to point out the similarities of human beings across racial, ethnic, and cultural lines. And it can be fun and present new educational and enjoyable experiences that one may have not tried except for the fact they became a transracial adoptive family. Parents willing to relish in the benefits of being a multiracial family including meeting new people, making new friends, and learning new cultures may enjoy their experience of parenting across racial lines immensely.
10. Diverse friendships are essential. Parents should have or develop diverse friendships with people of their child’s race and with people of multiple races. These diverse friendships will serve as resources and role models for both parents and children. Many transracial adoptive parents also find they enjoy these friendships, friendships that they may have not developed except for that they became a transracial adoptive family. And when a parent has no friends of the race of the child, it sends a message to the child who is valuable to the parents.
11. Realize family identity changes forever. The family racial make-up will change forever, including grandchildren.
If parents decided to adopt across racial lines, they should prepare for the unique challenges of being a multiracial family such as being stared at; being a spokesperson for adoption; lack of privacy; and listening too stupid/rude questions and comments. But they should also relish in the joy of parenting, expanding their friendship circle, and learning new things. A good place to start is to reach out to the large transracial adoptive community both in person and online.
Copyright © August 2014 by Michelle M. Hughes
Ms. Hughes’ legal practice focuses primarily on adoption. She is a fellow of the American Academy of adoption attorneys. She also co-founded Bridge Communications, Inc. specializing in transracial adoption education. Bridge Communications has seminars to further examine and build cultural competency to adopt across racial lines. Ms. Hughes also regularly speaks at conferences and adoptive family camps. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 857-7287.
As the mother of three trans-racially adopted kids, I compliment Ms. Hughes on her blog. She did an excellent job identifying the issues and and explaining them.