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Being Intentional About Your Child's Birth Culture

By Emily Williams

Imagine the scene…as well-meaning adoptive parents trying to keep our son’s birth culture relevant to him, we make a trip to our family’s favorite Asian food restaurant to "celebrate" Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage month. After ordering our son proclaims, rather loudly, “When my chips and salsa get here, I’m going to put this salt all over them!” Womp, womp! At that moment I wondered, had we failed to communicate to him that he was Asian, not Hispanic? Thankfully, we have a lifetime to build connections to his birthland. It seemed we still had work to do in this area (and in restaurant etiquette).

Over the years, since our sons have joined our family through adoption, we have wrestled with the idea of keeping meaningful connections to our son’s South Korean birth land. Let’s face it, our sons are “All American Boys.” They play baseball, are faithful members of their Cub Scout pack, love a burger and fries and gladly participate in American holidays. However, in our view, they are more than just Americans, they are Korean-Americans. This makes them part of both cultures and they are blessed to have two rich cultures to call their own.

Here are some ways that our family has found to explore our son’s birth culture.

  • Food – When we have a chance, we eat at Korean food restaurants. There have been so many dishes that we have found that we actually enjoy and since our youngest son joined our family at 2 1/2, the tastes are natural to him. We have also had fun learning to prepare Korean dishes at home as well as subscribing to a monthly snack food box that delivered tasty treats each month right to our front door. We are blessed to have an Asian grocery store in our town and our family has thoroughly enjoyed shopping for fun treats.

  • Reading – We subscribe to magazines that are geared towards Korean-Americans, we have multicultural books and as our sons gets older; we are excited to introduce them to some awesome young adult fiction works written by Asian-American Authors. The importance of seeing faces like theirs in print media can't be underestimated.

  • Culture Camp – Our summer always includes plans to attend Korea camp sponsored by Dillon International. It is the highlight of our summer. Our family leaves feeling a connection to both Korea and other families who have been touched by adoption. We are so grateful to have that opportunity to spend time with other families like ours. It is such a blessing to work with an agency who cares about our family for a lifetime.

  • Friends – It is important to our children to see us making friends with other people who share their ethnicity. These relationships take time to develop, but they are so worth the effort in every way. We are also sure to seek out professionals who are of Asian heritage. This gives the boys a chance to find mentors and role models who look like them.

  • Holidays - We are fortunate to live in an area with a large Asian population. There aren't a lot of Koreans, but our boys have been accepted by our local Vietnamese population. We have been invited to their homes and special events. The Vietnamese community has made sure to include our family in their special events. We have also made sure to offer to make presentations to our son's school and Cub Scout group about Lunar New Year or other holidays. It is another opportunity for our family to feel a sense of pride about our son's heritage.

  • You Tube - There are an abundance of cooking, travel and language videos available on You Tube. We have a lot of fun viewing these different videos as a family activity. We have learned lots of different things about Korea and Korean culture by simply watching You Tube.

There are many ways that families can seek out and celebrate their child's birth culture and these are just a few that our family has tried. What ways has your family found to enjoy your child's birth culture? Please share in the comment section below!

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