Adoption is a great process that allows children to find happy, healthy homes. Nicole Baart, author of YOU WERE ALWAYS MINE, shares her experience raising a multicultural family and gives 6 ways you can support adoptive families!
My husband and I are the parents of five children from four different countries. Our multiracial, multicultural family is my favorite thing in the whole, wide world. We’re diverse and different, a collection of dreamers, musicians, athletes, and animal-lovers to name just a few of our interests and hobbies. We love each other fiercely and fight sometimes, too, but none of us would trade the chaos, laughter, and variety of our wild crew.
Because we don’t look like most families, we tend to attract attention wherever we go. People watch us sometimes, wondering how we fit together. We don’t mind the stares, but we love it when people go out of their way to be kind. “Your daughter is so pretty,” one woman told me when we were shopping recently. My girl is a gorgeous Liberian queen and she glowed at the compliment. But it wasn’t just because a stranger called her pretty. It’s always encouraging when people acknowledge and affirm our relationships and the deep, deep love we have for each other.
Adoption is beautiful and hard. It always begins with great loss and results in a life-long journey of acceptance and understanding. Because of all this complexity, families that grow by adoption are an intricate puzzle that cannot be oversimplified or easily explained. But I believe, heart and soul, that we are made for community, for life with each other across social, economic, racial, and ethnic lines, and we are (and always will be) better together. It’s a drum I’ll beat until the day I die.
When you see a family that doesn’t fit what you would consider to be the status quo, here are some ways you can support, encourage, and affirm them.
- It doesn’t seem like much, but a smile goes a long way. In our increasingly isolated world, a simple gesture like a sincere smile, wave, or hello can be powerful. It puts us at ease and makes us feel less alone.
- Resist the urge to congratulate adopted kids on their good fortune. Remember that adoption is always the result of trauma and loss. Yes, we are working to make beautiful things out of the ashes of a tragedy, but telling our children “You’re so lucky!” isn’t helpful.
- Instead, congratulate the parents! “Look at your amazing kid! You must be so proud.” We are so very proud and we know that we’re the lucky ones. Our kids are strong, resilient, and the best thing that ever happened to us. Just ask us—we’ll tell you all about how blessed we are to have them in our lives.
- Understand that they’re all our real kids. It’s hurtful and divisive when people ask if we have any “real” children. What they mean to ask is if we have biological kids, but a question like this instantly segregates our family. Does it matter if we had biological kids or not? It certainly doesn’t matter to us. They are all our children and we love each and every one of them with our whole hearts.
- Don’t be afraid to ask honest, uplifting questions. Our kids love to talk about their countries and cultures of origin, and we all like to reminisce about the big days in our family history. Adoption days, birthdays, trips to birth countries, and interactions with members of our kids’ biological families are the fabric of our lives. When we get to recount these stories with laughter and tears we are watering the roots of our family tree. Our shared stories are important.
- Honor families that look different than yours by affirming diversity. When your kids ask about our family, tell them that families are knit together in lots of different ways. And that’s okay! In fact, it’s a wonderful thing that makes our world a more beautiful place.
For more writing by Nicole Baart check out YOU WERE ALWAYS MINE!
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