Monday, December 6, 2010

Cultural identity for adopted children

I work with many adopted children who are growing up in families with parents who have a different cultural, background than the one of their birth family. The Birth culture of your child is definitely part of your child and the question for parents is often how much of this culture do you retain and expose your child to while growing up in America?

Is it beneficial for adopted children from China to learn Chinese when the adoptive parents do not speak Chinese? Should your child go to a Chinese/American school? Should you celebrate all the Chinese holidays? I have found that all adoptive parents, if they are asking themselves these important questions in the service of helping their child have a bi-cultural or tri-cultural identity then there are no right or wrong answers. You do the best you can with the resources you have and keep the cultures alive in a real way as much as possible, to help your child integrate the past , present and future. Not easy, if you are a parent who has have never lived in China. Not so easy if you are adopted and have no memory of your birth culture and are living in America with a psuedo-Chinese cultural experience.

My perspective on cultural identity was opened up one day in a discussion with a Chinese friend. From an insiders point of view as a Chinese person seeing the adopted Chinese babies dressed up in 'Chinese embroidered silk suits' , she says that it is a strange phenomenon, as Chinese people do not dress their children like this!! It made me realize that we can not make our daughters more Chinese than they are. I realized that the best person to teach my daughter about Chinese culture and what it is like to be Chinese is my Chinese friend.

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