How to Connect with Your Foster/Adopted Children?
How to Help Adopted Children Connect to Their Native Culture
There are many things you can do to help adopted children connect to their native culture. Expose your child to the native art, dance, and music of their native culture. Seek out mentors for your adopted child who can better help them grapple with their identity and what it means to have a native culture as well as an adopted culture. Finally – and most importantly – show support to your adopted child by learning more about their adopted culture yourself.
Make it an open and celebrated topic.Maintaining an open and positive relationship with your children about their cultural and ethnic background is a great way for them to adapt successfully to the duality of being born in one culture and raised by another. Explore, learn, and celebrate with your children their birth culture’s traditions, values, norms, and beliefs. Make an effort to incorporate their birth culture's celebrated holidays and traditions into your own. These techniques will help you and your children as they get older and are learning to develop their own self-identity.
Enroll your child in a racially diverse school.If your child is the only adopted child from a particular native culture in their school, they might feel out of place and isolated. If possible, enroll your child in a school that has a more racially diverse student body.
Celebrate holidays of your adopted child’s native culture.Different cultures have different holidays. Check online for a list of holidays celebrated by your adopted child’s ancestors, or talk to others familiar with the holidays of your child’s native culture. Identify holidays unique to that culture and celebrate them with your adopted child.
- For instance, if your adopted child is from Korea, you might celebrate Chuseok, a holiday often translated as “Korean Thanksgiving,” by making foods traditionally associated with the holiday like songpyeon, a type of rice cake.
Bring in cultural elements within the home.Your adopted children may feel more comfortable and at home when they see that there are various elements related to their culture in their environment. Hang artwork, or bring in other home decor related to your children’s birth culture. Bring in music, movies, and culturally-specific foods for dinner. Explore these items with your children to help them feel the comforts of home in a safe and fun environment.
Sharing Cultural Traditions
Encourage your child to take up native artistic traditions.Many cultures have traditional arts and crafts that could help your child connect to their native culture. For instance, China is well-known for its calligraphy and brushwork. If your child demonstrates an interest in taking up calligraphy, you could provide a set of calligraphy brushes and enroll them in calligraphy classes.
- If your child is not inclined toward creating art forms of their native culture, they might still enjoy learning about them. Take your child to museums and cultural institutions where they can see art of their native culture on display.
Show your adopted child traditional dances of their native culture.Many countries have unique dance traditions that could help your child connect with their native culture.For instance, if your adopted child’s native culture is that of China, you might be able to get your child lessons in traditional ribbon dancing through a Chinese heritage organization or dance instructor.
- Contact relevant heritage organizations and dance studios to find out if dance lessons pertaining to available.
- If lessons are not available, help your child check out performances – either live or recorded – of their native culture’s dance traditions. For instance, if your child was adopted from China, you could run a word string like “Chinese traditional dance” through your preferred search engine.
- Offer an age-appropriate explanation of the dance tradition so that your adopted child understands that the form of dance they are engaged in is from their native culture. For instance, when floating the idea of learning Chinese ribbon dance to your child, explain, “The Chinese ribbon dance is a traditional type of dance from China, where you were born.”
Cook the food of your adopted child’s native culture.Food is an important cultural product. If your child (and, hopefully, you) can enjoy a great meal inspired by your adopted child’s native culture, they might feel more connected to that culture. It might inspire them to try other dishes and learn more about their native culture.
- If you and your child don’t feel comfortable in the kitchen, locate an appropriate restaurant in your area and visit it. For instance, if your adopted child is from Ethiopia, find an Ethiopian restaurant in your vicinity and make a reservation for your family to eat there.
- Do this regularly and teach the child about the culinary traditions of their native culture.
Introduce your child to other cultural practices.Many cultures around the world engage in unique cultural traditions beyond artistic expressions. Contact organizations that encourage and promote your adopted child’s native culture and find out what sort of cultural practices they value that your child might also be interested in. If possible, arrange opportunities for your child to engage in these cultural practices.
- For instance, in certain Native American tribes, tanning hides is celebrated as an important skill. If your child is Native American, you could connect them to others who practice traditional Native American tanning.
Making Travel Plans
Arrange for your child to visit the country of their native culture.For instance, if your child is from Ukraine, you might arrange for them to visit their home country. Travel with your child to the country of their native culture if they are underage or if they wish for you to do so.
- Some cultural heritage organizations offer financial help for kids belonging to particular ethnic traditions. For instance, the nonprofit Birthright Israel provides trips to Israel for Jews living outside of Israel.
Send your child to a culture camp.Culture camps are basically summer camps where kids of a certain native culture can meet other adopted kids from the same native culture. For instance, a culture camp might specialize in bringing together kids adopted from India in order to expose them to Indian dance, music, and cultural practices.
- Since every culture around the world is unique, the experiences offered by culture camps are also unique. It is impossible to generalize about what a culture camp experiences entails.
- Your adopted child might get to try the food of their native culture, or get to dress in the traditional style of their native culture.
- Some camps offer guest speakers or natives of your adopted child’s native culture.
- Other camps provide simple language lessons that help your adopted child learn the language of their native culture.
- You can find more information about these camps online or from cultural enrichment or heritage organizations that promote the native culture of your adopted child.
Encourage your child to learn the language of their native culture.The best way to learn another language is through language immersion – that is, using the language all day, every day while living in a country where the language is native tongue. However, there are other routes through which your adopted child can learn the language of their native culture.
- For instance, if your adopted child’s parents were Vietnamese, locate Vietnamese language classes in your area.
- If this proves impossible, find online resources to help your child learn Vietnamese.
- Visit your local public library for language books that teach the language, or order books of your own through your local bookstore.
- The best foreign language books will include a CD or digital download that allows you and your child to actually hear the foreign language.
Getting Outside Help
Ask your caseworker for help.The process of adoption often puts you in contact with a government agent or representative of a nonprofit, known as a caseworker, to help your adoption process proceed smoothly. Your caseworker might be able to connect you and your adopted child to resources that could help your adopted child connect to their native culture.
- For instance, if your child is adopted from a Native American tribe, your caseworker could help you and/or your child establish a connection to that tribe or provide tribal resources to help your child better understand their heritage.
Get a mentor for your adopted child.Connect your adopted child with someone of their native culture to help them delve more deeply into what that cultural heritage means.Identify a local heritage organization that promotes cultural understanding of your adopted child’s native culture. Find out if the organization offers mentorship programs. If they don’t ask if the organization has someone that could be a mentor to your adopted child.
- For instance, if your adopted child is from Iraq, identify a local Iraqi or Arabic heritage organization through which your adopted child could meet a mentor. This person could answer your child’s questions and help them better understand Arabic and/or Iraqi history and culture.
Help your child stay in touch with their birth family.If you have the contact information for your adopted child’s birth family, your child might be interested in staying in touch with them, even from an early age. Encourage your child to write letters or emails and send pictures of them to their birth family.
Video: Adopted Children: What it's like being taken away
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