Adopting a child from another culture can be a wonderful experience. As you watch your child grow, you can learn about his or her culture and help develop the child’s racial or cultural identity, starting when they’re little. Young children may not understand the importance of their roots, so you can help them appreciate where they come from. Here are some tips:
- Immerse yourself. Study your child's culture and find ways to make it part of your life and daily routine. You might watch a show on your child’s culture, or learn your child’s native language. The more you know about your child's culture, the better prepared you’ll be to answer questions and provide enriching opportunities for your child.
- Embrace the culture. When you adopt, your child’s culture becomes part of your family's culture. Finding cultural experiences for your child and your family means everyone can learn together. Go to cultural festivals and visit ethnic stores and restaurants. Think about your child’s specific cultural needs when you choose where to live, what to do as a family and where your child goes to school.
- Talk. Don’t be afraid to talk openly about race and culture. Acknowledge your child's differences while creating a sense of belonging in your family. Help your child see his or her differences as something to cherish. If you need ideas, many books are available for interracial families and those who’ve adopted children internationally.
- Find mentors. Help develop relationships with adults who look like your child and share your child's culture. These friends can become natural mentors.
- Make it real. Help your child put together a scrapbook, photo album, audio recording or video about his or her country or about a cultural celebration.
- Play. Find toys, books and games that are part of your child's culture and use them with your child. Create and display cultural art.
Cook. Make food from your child's culture, and let your child help choose the recipes and prepare meals.
- Explore. Find exhibitions at museums that highlight your child's culture.
- Celebrate. Honor holidays that are significant in your child's culture.
- Teach. Use special moments in everyday life to help your child and your family learn together. For example, point out accomplishments by others who share your child's race or culture.
- Persevere. Keep up the routine, even if your child seems uninterested in the culture. Your child will learn that you respect and cherish his or her cultural background.
- Get connected. Find a support group for families who have adopted from other cultures. Work with military and family life counselors to help smooth transitions and improve communication if you think you need more help. Remember that Military OneSource adoption consultants are available to help you through the adoption process and beyond.
Adopting a child from a different culture takes a special kind of commitment. With nurturing and understanding, your child can grow up with cultural pride and a sense of belonging.