Adoption is complicated and unless parents are adoptees, we can never completely understand the experience. Love and positive intentions will carry us far but we must rely on our children to speak the truth of their world. We must set a context where our kids feel their input is welcome. Convince them we are strong enough to hear their genuine thoughts and feelings and invite them to tell us what it is like to walk through the world as a person of color.
The reality is, in America, our life experiences are colored by the skin we are in. It shapes how others see and respond to us. If we are members of a majority race, much of the world is designed to interact with us through that filter. This occurs at a level that we may not even notice. But it is a powerful and undeniable fact and subtle privileges accrue to us because of it. Our children most certainly feel the impact of their minority racial identity.
As Caucasians, we’ve experienced life through the lens of majority status. Finding others that look, think and act similar to us is easy. It is also easy to forget what it’s like to obviously look different. This is impossible for our transracially adopted kids. Their “differentness” is omnipresent and inescapable.
How often do we trade roles and seek out experiences where we become the minority? What benefits could result from doing this more often? Consider the deeper empathy and emotional wisdom that might evolve. It would also convey a strong message: we truly value “their” people and “their” culture.
Transracial families must learn to straddle races and cultures as a multicultural family. This means parents and children must walk in one another’s worlds and share the experience of being different. Teach kids how you handle any discomfort, uncertainty, or prejudice. Explain your coping strategies. Be straightforward about the challenges. Compare experiences. Acknowledge the reality of discrimination and work together to prepare them to face a world that notices the skin we are in.