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Talking to Your Child about Race

Transracial adoption can result in beautiful, diverse relationships between parents, children and siblings. Through these, adoptees gain  a unique perspective as he or she grows up in an environment that differs from their birth culture. The adoptive parent learns different lessons from having a child who looks different from them as well.

One of the biggest learning curves with transracial adoption is the impact race has on the adoptee and how people surrounding the adoptee interact with a variance of race. Race and racism are never easy topics to talk about. When children are involved, the task becomes harder. Complex issues are challenging for children to wrap their minds around, yet racism may enter their lives at any moment. So, it’s good to be prepared to have honest discussions where they are needed. There is not one correct way to begin this type of conversation, and as a parent, you will have to decide what works best for you and your child.

Education is Key

As a parent, you are the first person your child will go to when they are looking for answers while learning about the world. When in this position, you have the opportunity to give them a foundation of knowledge and understanding to build onto. Educating yourself about these topics is the first step in this process.

Begin with Definitions

Race refers to a person’s physical characteristics. This can include: skin color, bone structure, eye color, hair texture, etc. How can you put this into terms that a child can understand? Pointing out the similarities and differences between your child and yourself in a positive manner may be a way to begin these conversations from an early age.

Ethnicity refers to a person’s cultural background. This can include things like ancestry, culture, and language. Ethnicity is one of the foundational parts of a person’s identity. How can you be sure to acknowledge your child’s birth culture as a part of who they are and where their biological parents come from? This is not to diminish your own cultural background, but rather to add onto what makes up their identity. Introducing your child to parts of their heritage at an early age can be a great way to normalize the differences.

Acknowledgement vs. Othering

One of the hardest lines to walk is the balance between acknowledging differences without making these differences feel other. Pointing out the beauty and uniqueness of each of these different features your child has will encourage a level of comfortability discussing these at an early age. The goal is to make your child feel unique. Not to allow their differences to alienate them. The most extreme case of othering is racism.

Racism refers to the prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. As a parent, you hope there’s a reality where your child doesn’t have to face this everyday. You wonder what the best way to teach them is as infants. How you can raise your child to understand what racism is and how to overcome it.

Books and Media as Resources

Reading to your child is a great way for them to learn. It is an introduction to language and encourages self-awareness, allowing him or her to connect with the pictures they see. Introducing the topics of race and racism can happen in a safe environment in the form of picture books. These ideas displayed on the page may correlate with interactions happening in your child’s life, encouraging a conversation. In the same way, movies and TV shows can act as  avenues to these foundational discussions. There are several books and movies that may help present these topics to your child, here are a few suggestions.

Movies

Zootopia

This 2016 Disney movie deals with the topic of prejudice and stereotypes in a way that kids can grasp. The world of Zootopia was once divided into the categories of predators and prey, yet through the development of technology, these categories fell away.Having the ability to branch out, Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit police officer and the main character in the story. However, the prejudices that were prominent before begin to reappear, resulting in the issue needing to be addressed again.

Kung Fu Panda

This 2008 movie touches on the idea of transracial adoption. The main character, Po, is a panda who was adopted by Mr. Ping, a goose. Not only does the movie address the topic of adoption, it also discusses the prejudices against Po for being a panda learning Kung Fu. This is another tangible way for kids to learn about racism in a setting outside their own.

Books

Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

At first there were only three colors: red, yellow, and blue. One day, the reds decide they are better than everyone else. This prompted a segregation of each of the colors from one another, and of them believing that each color is the best. However, one day, a yellow and a blue fall in love and have a baby, drastically changing the prejudices flying around the colorful world.

A Handful of Buttons by Carmen Parets Luque

This book highlights family and the diversity that can be present in each child’s upbringing by focusing on the importance of love over the presence of the same race across each member of a family.

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza

This book discusses the importance of love, no matter how different a parent looks from a child. Choco, a bird, goes in search of a mother and finds one in the last place he would have expected; a bear.

Transracial Adoption

The topics of race and racism are not easy ones to address. This will be a learning curve. There is no right way to begin, but love and patience go a long way.

Adoption Choices of Oklahoma

If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Oklahoma. You may visit our website here or call 405-794-7500 (Oklahoma City) or 918-982-6220 (Tulsa).

Support Adoption Choices

CrowdriseAdoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.

However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.

About the Author

Jadzia Miller

Jadzia Miller is currently in the final stretches of pursuing an English degree at Colorado Christian University. She has lived in the beautiful state of Colorado for the 22 years she has been on this earth, and loves exploring the beauty that is constantly surrounding her.

She aspires to pursue a career in publishing or library science; either way, Jadzia wants to be surrounded by books and stories. Living near Denver, she is surrounded by artistic pursuits and wants to continue exploring these as often as possible. Jadzia has a passion for encouraging people to read and find the joy in reading books.

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Sources:

“Best Books for Transracially Adopted Children.” Creating a Family, creatingafamily.org/adoption/adoptionsuggestedbooks/books-kids-transracial-black/.

“A Handful of Buttons: : Picture Book about Family Diversity by Carmen Parets Luque.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 3 Apr. 2018, www.goodreads.com/book/show/39787694-a-handful-of-buttons?from_search=true&qid=siQsCkfE5k&rank=1.

“A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 19 Mar. 1996, www.goodreads.com/book/show/85663.A_Mother_for_Choco?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=TsC8TIzqf0&rank=1.

“Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 3 July 2018, www.goodreads.com/book/show/35795921-mixed?from_search=true&qid=PXoN1BzOjh&rank=1.

Winkler, Erin. “Here’s How To Raise Race-Conscious Children.” BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed, 11 June 2017, www.buzzfeed.com/erinwinkler/tips-for-talking-to-children-about-race-and-racism.

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