Now that we have talked about mirroring and strong community ties and positive role models being important for a strong racial identity and emotional well being for young transracial adoptees, I’d like to specifically talk about some things that I feel could have helped me transition from high school into college more smoothly.
As parents, once you’ve done what is necessary to help your child establish a healthy racial identity as a child and adolescent, then the next logical step is to prepare your child for their transition into adulthood – which would include “The Talk” (not the one about sex either), “The Other Talk” (yes, the one about sex), fiscal responsibility and college prep.
If I were to be able and prepare my family for helping me get ready for college, these would be the some of the things that I would tell them:
Start College Prep Early in High School with Programs Designed for Students of Color
One of the single most important lessons that I can pass on to the adoptee or the adoptive parent when it comes to preparing your child specifically for college is to research programs and scholarship opportunities for your child. For example, if your child is Black, you may want to look getting your child involved in a debutante program with a local Black fraternity or sorority.
There are also leadership programs that the local chapters of Black sororities and fraternities offer for middle school and high school students. For example, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority offers the Emerging Young Leaders program. Jack and Jill Chapters, Top Teens of America, and local churches are also good places to look for your child to become involved with college prep and mentoring designed to assist in college readiness, college preparedness and college success. Not to mention, life long networking opportunities.
One very important thing that this type of preparation would have given me is greater insight into the Black community. I would have been able to get over my fear and prejudices of Black people that had been ingrained in my psyche earlier. I would have had an even healthier sense of identity as well. Moreover, I would have felt like I belonged in the Minority Academic Achievement Program and would have taken better care of the opportunities afforded me by being selected in this program.
One of the things that always has always troubled me about my academic achievements and awards because of my minority status when I refused to acknowledge my blackness is that there was someone out there who didn’t get that scholarship, who probably would have done better than I did, who would have worked harder and didn’t throw away their opportunities because of an unstable mind. It is unfair that I was offered these opportunities but I really didn’t deserve them. It is my hope that I can help prevent others from making the same mistakes.
And perhaps I am being too hard on myself. I have used my education for good things. I think my alma mater is proud,
Communicate Regularly With Your Child
I know I stress this communication thing a lot and maybe because I am very non-communicative unless it is through writing, I just know that you have to at least show your child that you are interested in what is going on in their life. Racial issues are no exception and they will start to become much more prevalent now.
I would never say that my parents were non-responsive to me. They talked to me. My mom would send me neat encouraging cards. My dad even bought me a plaque about my unique character after I tried to kill myself. But I just never felt like I could confide in them. Not about race. I still don’t. I don’t think they understand. But mostly that’s me.
I remember very early in life feeling very separate from them. And through no fault of their own, but I do think that they had a lot on their hands with their biological kids. Maybe I needed more attention at an early age to feel more secure, I don’t know. But I know that I always felt like a shadow to them in their family. So if I had felt like I could communicate with them, then I wouldn’t have retreated so completely into myself and escaped through harmful ways in college.
They just think different than I do. We tend to argue over social issues. So I have felt like they can fully understand my issues.
Let Them Know You Will Always Be There
In our society, we are socialized to create individuals who go out and achieve great things individually. We seldom teach our children about cooperative economics and the prospect to of enduring family support.
In my family, when you turned 18, you were on your own. That was how it was. It’s an unwritten rule that if you still live in your parents house after 18, then you are some sort of failure. The only excuse that is acceptable is if you have a room there to stay in during college breaks.
For me, this idea created great anxiety. I believe now that it was one of the contributing factors to my suicide attempts. I think that my belief that if I couldn’t attract a man, then I would never be able to leave my parents house and have to return there and therefore be a failure.
This was some heavy stuff for a kid to process.
And it’s not to say that my parents wouldn’t or haven’t been there for me when I have been at my absolute lowest point, because they have – that part of the story is coming – but when I was 18, I strongly felt the need to swim or that I would sink.
And I can understand that not all families are set up for or even want to participate in cooperate economics, so my suggestion is to make sure that your child is financial literate at an early age so that they can handle the stress of being financially responsible at an early age.
For the most part, once I got past the point of trying to kill myself because I felt like I was going to fail and have to return home to a town that offered no future and carried so many sad reminders for me, I just blocked it all out and carried on. I had to get through it all. And the last couple years I was at UB, I had a lot of fun. I learned how to juggle it all and make it through.
The start of college is a really crazy time for any kid, let alone a kid who is suddenly going to identified as something that they are not internally prepared for. It is definitely the parents’ responsibility to understand and prepare your child to enter the world prepared with the best tools possible.