How my first years were affected by transracial adoption

Before I move onto my high school years, I’d like to take a moment and reflect on important points of my life that trans racial adoptive parents can learn from.

Relatives: please make sure that your relatives are ok with you adopting outside your race. Even if you say something like ” we just won’t visit them.” If this is your favorite aunt, uncle, cousin, etc…. Your child is going to feel the pain of your separation from that person and more than likely blame themselves. In addition, even if that person softens toward your adoption, if the child finds out that this relative was prejudiced against him or her, your child may feel resentment toward that person.

Relatives- another point about relatives. They like to make insensitive comments that you to have to have a radar for. I have heard horror stories about grandparents preferring openly their biological grandchildren. While I will not say it was openly done, but with some relatives there was a definitive feeling that the biological children were preferred. Things like “the bastard child” or “my daughter’s adopted child” are definitely not some things that make happy, well adjusted adoptees.

Relatives- yes, I know… Relatives matter a lot! They were my primary peer group when I was a child. The memory of being picked on by my grandmother’s boyfriend was humiliating to me as a child. Sometimes what is laughed off as harmless fun, is not so harmless to the child’s psyche. It’s better to err on the side of caution and not let anyone use your child as a comedy prop.

Biological siblings- while I know that parents cannot control their children’s behavior, they should have a good idea if one of their children is bullying another and put a stop to it. If it’s a bio child bullying an adopted child and you don’t put a stop to it, there is a very good chance that the adopted child will internalize that the biological child is favored. They may also be being told this as well.

Racial isolation- do not put the onus on your child to single handedly integrate your church, your school, or your town. Give them extensive opportunities for racial mirroring so they understand there is not one standard of beauty and success.

Culture- learn about and embrace your child’s birth culture. Embrace what is important. If hair is important, learn about hair. You’re not going to change an entire culture by dismissing the importance of their customs and you’ll be sending your child out unprepared to go into their birth culture as an adult.

Birth mother fantasy- just be honest about why they were put up for adoption and if you don’t know, just say that. If you haven’t heard it directly from the birthmother’s mouth that she “loves your child so much.” Don’t say it! I know that back in the day, that is what adoptive parents were told to tell their kids. I can’t think of anything more debilitating emotionally than fearing love because my child’s mind equated it to desertion. I wasted years on my birth mother fantasy. Somewhere deep inside of me I am resentful because I feel like I could have loved my mother more if I hadn’t felt like I was betraying a phantom by loving her too.

Final thought- Listen. Listen. Listen. And be observant. Do not dismiss your child’s feelings.

Now that I have shared the bad news, let me share the good:

Wide open spaces. Freedom to explore the natural world. Gardening and farming. Educational opportunities.

These were the bright spots of my adoption story. Along with love, I cannot forget love.

In the end, I can look back and say that yes, I was struggling emotionally and yes, there were issues, but there were a lot of really wonderful things as well.

So if transracial adoptive parents can hear that while there is a unique story with every family and not everyone’s truth is universal, there are some basic things that can be done to diminish some of the hurt and pain felt by some kids of color who are adopted transracially.


About sjwoods318

Mother of six children - five girls and one boy; wife; community organizer, family chauffeur, philosopher, trans-racial adoptee, Deadhead, person of mixed racial heritage, artist, poet, writer who loves to swim, read, and run around with my family.
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2 Responses to How my first years were affected by transracial adoption

  1. Frank Ligtvoet, Brooklyn says:

    I used your blog in my piece in the Daily Kos Thanks so much for your insights. I just missed today’s post, alas.

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