Culture is defined as the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture helps to instruct us on how to live our lives. Our given culture plays into what we eat, how close we stand to others, what holidays we celebrate, how we teach our children, and what we value. We all have our own culture. Some of it has been passed down to us, and some we have learned and gained on our own. None of us are void of culture.
Heritage goes beyond culture, because it is something we can not change. Heritage is our genetic background, physical features, and ethnic origin. It can even include the history of the people who share these features with us.
Our adopted children can have a very different heritage from us. As adoptive parents we need to understand that we are not only adopting a child, but we are adopting new cultural aspects from our child’s birth culture/heritage. So it is important that we consider how we can integrate our child’s birth culture into our lives to help them to better understand their heritage. Sometimes our children want to reject aspects of their birth culture. This could be because they do not want to be singled out or they just want to fit in with the rest of their family and friends. Whatever your child’s current attitude is toward their heritage, remember our children will take their cues from us as parents. It is important that we make sure our whole family shares in celebrating the cultural heritage of the adopted child.
Below are some fun, easy ways to celebrate and incorporate your child’s culture into your life.
1. Make or find a book that contains the following information: a map of their country or state they were born in, common animals, pictures of the people, and what kind of homes they live in.
2. Purchase a doll or toy from your child’s culture or country.
3. Listen to music from your child’s birth culture or learn common songs.
4. Tell your child a common children’s story or folk lore from that country.
5. Display artwork from your child’s country in your home.
6. For a family game night, play a common cultural game.
7. Cook a traditional meal with your child, or go to a cultural restaurant which serves food from the county your child comes from.
8. Celebrate special holidays. For example: Ethiopia celebrates Christmas on the orthodox date so have your family celebrate a second Christmas with the traditions of Ethiopia. Celebrate Chinese New Year.
9. As our children grow, teach them about their birth country’s history.
10. Hang out with other families who have adopted children from the same country and participate in cultural activities together.
11. Learn your child’s birth language with them.
12. Find out if there are local cultural activities and groups your family can participate in. For example: Does your community have a Chinese School, or local Ethiopian church?
13. As your child grows, consider looking into culture camps. There are many throughout the US.
14. When they are a pre-teen, or young adult, travel back to their birth country.
There are so many other ways to celebrate your child’s culture. We would love to hear from you! What do you do?
Bethany Martin, Tennessee Director of Social Services