18 April 2011

Racial Identity and Coping Skils

"...While these children will not have the same sense of racial identity or approach to racism that they would have if they were being raised by Black parents, they are not necessarily doomed to be racial "misfits" or powerless victims of racism. White parents can help their children develop a positive racial identity and can prepare them for the realities of being a minority in our society. It isn't easy, and parents who adopt transracially must understand their responsibility to educate themselves, and change some of their attitudes and perhaps even their lifestyle, to meet the complex needs of a transracial adopted child.

"Parents must admit racism exists, and understand how it can be encountered as well as that the purpose of racism is to obtain power and control. Most adoptive parents start our "color blind," believing that the appropriate way to counter racism is to adopt the attitude that race doesn't matter. While well-intentioned, it denies the actual experience of people of color. Eventually adoptive parents see that while they may be color-blind, other people are not. When their child is the victim of racial slurs, gets turned down for a date because of race, or is treated more harshly by the police than white youngsters in the community, parents begin to recognize that race is important and they they cannot protect their children from racism.

"Children who are not prepared to encounter racism, both through the development of good racial identity and survival skills, are at risk of poor self-esteem and self-hate. When children who have been raised not to notice color or the effects of color in society are confronted with negative stereotypes of their own race, they have little option but to accept that stereotype and feel bad about themselves. They end up feeling alienated from the white culture they grew up in because others don't see that they belong there, as well as from the culture of their own race because they don't feel that they fit in there-or may not want to because they see only the negative stereotypes. Parents need to counterbalance negative role models with positive role models and tell and remind their children over and over again they they can be or do anything!

"...From the moment a family adopts, regardless of the race of the child, they begin to deal with identity issues. Adopting puts the family in minority of it's own. The parents become hyper-vigilant, they over-identify, and they must be careful not to over-react. The goal for parents who adopt transracially is not to raise a "chameleon"-a person who can blend in so well with people of his own race that no one would be able to tell he'd even been with a white family. The goal is for the child to appreciate that aspect of himself enough to want to explore and develop it. This goal is generally beyond the means of white adoptive parents to accomplish alone. No parents can be all things to their child. Consequently, adoptive parents have to provide their child with surrogate systems and models for their child-religious, educational, social, artistic, and spiritual experiences with families, organizations, churches, and institutions of the child's own race. Parents may be uncomfortable being involved in situations in which they are the minority, but they must find a comfort level if they are to help their children. Between the ages of 12 and 15 years, the transracially adopted child will have to pick where they belong-they will gravitate to where they are accepted.

"There is a difference between exposing a child to these positive influences and allowing a child to participate in them. Adoptive parents may find it difficult to allow their child to become involved in these cultural experiences because they don't understand them, or are dealing with their own fears and stereotypes.

"...The best way for transracially adopted children to learn about racial identity and ways to cope with racism in the same way other children of color do-through contact with older generations who can pass on what they have learned. To do this, members of the majority culture must admit to themselves that the group viewed in our culture as powerful and dominant cannot help their children. The people who can most help are from a group who have been discriminate against and viewed as second-class."

Click here to read the whole article and for references: Families Supporting Adoption.

One of the best, most to-the-point and concise article I've read yet on how to parent a transracially adopted child.

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