Being transracially adopted or multiracial can lead to a variety of experiences depending on one’s community, education, and, especially, their parents. The relationship between parent and child is vital for adopted or multiracial children as they encounter the outside world where there are people who discriminate, are racist, and will verbally and/or physically harm people of color. In this type of society, these people need support and someone to talk to as they experience these acts. However, it can be difficult to talk to one’s parents about racial identity, racism, and racial discrimination. Due to this difficulty, multiracial people or transracial adoptees, often silence their thoughts and emotions, thus delaying or avoiding this much-needed conversation with their parents.
A big step towards having a conversation about race is not being afraid to be the first one to initiate the conversation. The responsibility to start the conversation does not lie solely with the child or the parent; either one can bring up the topic during a regular conversation or straightforwardly ask about what to do in the event of verbal or physical harm occurs. Staying silent will do more harm than good. Parents have a responsibility to see and care about their child’s racial identity, as well as help them during a crucial learning period by providing advice or just listening with an open heart and mind. More pain can happen when these conversations don’t happen. If a parent doesn’t prepare their child for what they may face from society, the child will suffer as they enter a harsh world unprepared and uneducated about what to do in various scenarios.
Once a conversation happens, it is important for both parties to understand what the other needs to understand. This could be convincing a parent what racial identity you identify with and how you wish to experience more culture or getting a family member to stop using certain words or phrases that are deemed “othering.” Oftentimes, the adopted or multiracial child just wants someone to tell them, “I’m sorry you had to have that experience” or, “That must have been hard,” instead of “Let it go” and, “Just ignore them.” Parents can’t expect to understand their child’s experiences and vice versa. At times, it’s best just to be able to try to empathize and find solutions rather than ignore the problem. An important note to make is that once goals are set for the conversation, it is important that both parties do not get angry or defensive. Mutual respect needs to exist as the child is speaking about their worries whereas the parents may not personally understand the experiences and need time to learn how the child feels.
One step that parents and children can take is to go find support groups, a counselor, or a researcher. There are plenty of resources to take advantage of to help navigate this experience. Finding others via a community or Facebook group can help parents speak to other parents if they feel more comfortable reaching out to another adult. If the child doesn’t feel comfortable speaking to their parents, seek a counselor so the child can speak to a professional third party who they may be more willing to speak about their experiences with a trusted individual.
The ability to openly converse between parent and child about race can be difficult. It may harder to talk about concepts of white fragility, white privilege, white supremacy, discrimination, or racism. Know that it takes time to overcome these experiences and it is important to express to parents that this is a journey that both parties will go on to properly care for one another. With an open mind and a willingness to learn, listen, and understand, both parents and children can discuss these difficult, but necessary topics to protect, grow, and care for each other.