Monday, September 5, 2011

Sense of Belonging in America (1)

I am an immigrant, just like my daughter. How do Internationally adopted children integrate their sense of cultural identity? How can their parents help with this integration?  As an immigrant myself, I have somewhat of a unique perspective as a parent of an internationally adopted child.  I can identify with being 'different' - being from somewhere else, and understand how that feels.  I see how my own sense of belonging in America and how I have integrated,( or not ),  my own cultural identities can  impact my daughter in both a negative and a positive way.

As I write this, I am also aware that I am still in process of integrating a sense of belonging in America, even after 30 years. My daughter is Chinese and I know she will encounter prejudice for being Chinese or adopted or.......?  I see my daughter has her own unique path.. For each of us, as human beings, Cultural identity  is at the core of learning to;  tolerate differences; being aware of  prejudices and strong judgements and being aware of the climate of hate, fear and exclusivity that can be created  inside ouselves and in our societies, if left unchecked or unexplored. How else can we experience compassion and be at peace with ourselves and recognize that ultimately we are all human beings, no matter how we  look or speak?

As a parent, all I can do is try to keep the door open to different parts of my daughter's cultural identity, even when she says she is not interested, so that at some point she can return to explore those parts of herself. For instance, when opportunities arise,  I may talk about her connection to her Chinese parents, and culture or listen for opportunties to discuss prejudice.  My own personal work as her parent, (which I hope will benefit both of us),  is to stay alert to  my own prejudices and judgements about the English, American and Chinese cultures and also recognize the power of fear and sense of separation that can arise out of  prejudice and judgement in myself. This is a life long venture of accountability and exploration and integration.


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