We did a Creating a Family Radio show on Helping Our Kids Cope with Bullies several weeks ago, and one question we didn’t get on air was whether transracial adoptees were more likely to be bullied. We thought we would ask this question to adoption social worker, Tara Noone, Director of Adoptive Parent Services at
Yes, we think transracially adopted children are more vulnerable. One thing we know about kids in the elementary school years is that developmentally they are both noticing differences and very much wanting to conform rather than stand out. It is common for adopted kids to stop talking about their adoption or the ways in which they look different from their family during these years, even if they have been very verbal and comfortable with their own adoption story through the preschool age. Bullying is terrible for any reason but transracially adopted kids are especially vulnerable because integrating their own story and identity is a complex, lengthy process and one they may well prefer to not have even a positive spotlight on, let alone a negative one. It’s hard to be private when your “story” is visible for all to see.
Adoptive parents have a huge responsibility around this and positive outcomes depend on their being able to engage both their child and their community. They must be able to talk openly about racism inside and outside the home. They must ensure they are not the only adults in their child’s life who speak to the child about these hard topics — this means being thoughtful about choice of school, faith community and friends. They must consciously and intentionally address racial identity – creating real and significant relationships within the child’s racial/ethnic group.
White parents of children of color may have significant blind spots for identifying racially motivated bullying and have a tendency to minimize it. They should start from a place of believing their child and asking for help from the school to address the culture of the school. White privilege often extends from parents to their children of color when you are all together. But, when kids of color are in school and moving through the world on their own, that privilege is gone. Adoptive parents must accept and be willing to help their child with the fact that the way the world responds to their child in their presence is often different and more benign than what the kids manage all by themselves at school, or in sports or shopping, etc..
Most of all, kids need to know their parents are not fragile and can actively hold the space and create safety for the child to talk about adoption and race. Creating a family culture where adoption and difference are valued and seen as strengths, and yet also where vulnerability, sadness, and difficulty do not have to be hidden or ignored goes a long way toward building security for your child and a safe place to talk when things arise.
I think you will really appreciate the advice in this radio show on Helping Our Kids Cope with Bullies.
Image credit: theUdødelig