The topic of racial prejudices can be really hard for white adoptive parents to address. How does one start a conversation on something you might not fully understand? What if your child is not facing racial prejudice and they are not wanting to talk about it? What if I don’t have all the right answers to the hard questions my kids have about why racial prejudices happen?
No matter what your reason is for putting it off, it is time to start having those conversations! Not talking about racial prejudices does not make them go away or prepare your child for what they might face. Your child might be facing racism but not feel comfortable to talk to you about it. Here are some suggestions to think about as you start the conversation as a family:
Educate Yourself! As a white person you will never understand what it is like to be a person of color in America. You need to educate yourself on what you don’t know or understand. It is your job as a parent of an interracial adoptee to be an educated ally. Make it a priority to have this be a lifetime journey. As your child grows up seeing you educate yourself, they also see that you are trying to support them in things they might experience.
Know you will never understand. As a parent, we only want to protect our kids and relate as they go through something hard. The hardest thing sometimes for a parent is to admit they cannot help or understand. Unfortunately, there is validation in that for your child. Know you will not understand, so don’t minimize their experiences. A small comment at school might seem small to you but when it happens every day that small comment becomes a large burden to carry.
Admit when you are wrong. With race topics white people are always afraid that they may be seen as racist. To be honest we are all racist in one way or another. We need to be able to admit when we are wrong, apologize, and work to do better. When your child or adult child corrects you for things that you might not know is not okay, admit that you are wrong and say you will try to do better. For your child to feel heard in that moment and to feel seen is so powerful.
Be aware of your circle. Stop to think about your circle. Does your child see people that look like them? Think about your town, community centers, place of worship, and school. Do you actively reach out to other adoptive families who look like yours? Keeping friends is work but it is also worth every minute of your effort. Putting people in your child’s life that can understand what they are feeling will impact your child’s ability to learn to cope with racism. It takes a village to raise a child, so make sure you invest in the right village that is best for your child.
Be okay with being uncomfortable. It is not about your comfort. Starting the conversation young is so important to preparing your child for the future. This conversation is just as important as talking about religion, family values, and sex. These conversations need to happen, so get comfortable being uncomfortable if that is what it takes.
There is so much more to this conversation than one blog can hold, but the first part is making up your mind to be intentional in talking about race. It is not on your child to start the conversation! They didn’t get a choice in being in an interracial family, so they should not have to carry the burden of having to start the conversation about being in an interracial family.