If you are raising an adoptive, foster, or kinship child of a different race or ethnicity than you are, you have likely heard the advice to expand your community. Hopefully, you are already working on creative ways to include more diversity of race and culture in your family’s experience. One of the most common starting points for transracial adoptive, foster, or kinship families is to build relationships with families who have kids of the same race as your child. However, what other steps should you consider when expanding your family’s circles? How can you expose your family to experiences more closely representing your child’s culture, ethnicity, or race?
Expanding Your Circle of Adult Relationships
We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably repeat it — your adopted, foster, or kinship child should not be the only person of their race or ethnicity in your life.
In her book, In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption*, author and adult transracial adoptee Rhonda Roorda encouraged parents to provide a variety of role models for their kids. Whether you are raising a black, Hispanic, or Asian child, consider the visible adults around you.
It is important that you have African American friends and acquaintances who share your socioeconomic background because they will offer your child of color familiar and comfortable role models; the results will be that your child will see that he can achieve good and noble things. If such role models simply are not available in your neighborhood, consider moving into a predominately black or multicultural neighborhood.
How to Make Friends with Adults of Your Child’s Race
Making new adult friends outside of your race may be challenging. It might feel awkward and even forced at times. That’s okay! This is one of those times when your intentions must override your comfort levels.
Expanding your circle of friends to include adults of your child’s race will benefit you, your family, and most importantly, your child. Their healthy racial identity development is worth your temporary discomfort when you intentionally create tangible connections to their birth culture or community. These suggestions can help you get started in your daily life.
1. Seek professional service providers of your child’s race for your family.
You can look for doctors, dentists, chiropractors, lawyers, business owners, and other professionals to provide your family’s services in the regular rhythms of life. Your kids must see excellence in many roles contributing to your community. Exposing them to various races and cultures in those roles is excellent for their growing awareness of racial identity.
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2. Find a faith community predominantly of your child’s race.
Attend a church, mosque, or temple of people representing your child’s birth culture or race. And don’t just attend. Be active and form connections with the members by attending Sunday School or religious education classes. Volunteer to serve and clean up at their community outreaches, special events, and meals. Get your kids involved in the children’s programs and youth groups, and find ways to help out there when you can. Not only will you make new friends, but you will also experience what it’s like to be the minority in a group. You can gain valuable insight into what your child experiences every day.
3. Use a variety of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and minority-owned businesses.
Don’t just patronize local businesses owned by people of your child’s race. Also, consider how you can expand what community businesses you use to support your family and your business. Choose the minority-owned family businesses when you can and try to get to know the owners more personally. Recommend your friends and colleagues to try a diverse mix of companies in your community.
4. Strike up friendships with adults of your child’s race.
Try to notice adults of your child’s race in daily life. It might feel awkward or uncomfortable to start a conversation. Give it a try anyway — see where it goes. If you have something in common – like being on the sidelines together every week – keep at it in small, friendly ways. Remember, all friendships take effort and time, even if it feels like you are going way out of your way to getting it off the ground.
5. Take your child to a hair salon or barber of their race.
You should be capable of doing your child’s hair, which is crucial to learn. But it is just as critical that your child see adult professionals dedicated to caring for the skin and hair of the people of their race and culture. Hair care in the Black community is particularly central to their identity. Your Black child will benefit from seeing the celebration and diversity that happens every day in those salons and barbershops.
6. Be an ally in your circles.
In a CreatingaFamilyEd.org online parenting course on transracial adoption, Roorda also suggested you
“use your privileges to open doors of opportunity for people of color in your work pace and elsewhere. Speak up against racial injustices that occur within your sphere of influence.”
Being an ally requires that you educate yourself. As Kyle Bullock said in a recent CreatingaFamily.org podcast, “do your due diligence” to learn about the issues of racism, intolerance, and historical events that still carry impact today. Look for ways to change the conversations you engage in — choosing to be a voice for respect and acceptance instead.
Celebrate the Beauty of Diversity
Tremendous beauty and wisdom will be added to your life when you intentionally seek relationships with adults of your child’s race or culture. It might feel awkward, and you might stumble in the process. However, when you can understand and celebrate the excellence of your adopted, foster, or kinship child’s race or culture, you affirm them and their preciousness. Your messages of acceptance, honor, and respect for your child’s race or culture will allow them to explore their racial identity successfully.
Have you made friends with adults of your child’s race or culture? How have you seen it impact your child? Tell us about it in the comments!
Image Credits: Tim Douglas; Kindel Media; RODNAE Productions
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