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We celebrate our children's differences
Leceta Chisholm Guibault
I have been working on instilling cultural pride and a positive cultural and racial identity in my children since Kahleah (10, from Guatemala) and Tristan (7, from Colombia) were infants.
Our children are "different" in a sense. We choose to celebrate our children's differences and of course their "sameness" (for lack of a better word). Celebrating their differences will not make them feel more different. Most likely, as in our case, they feel less different.
It wasn't enough for us to introduce Kahleah and Tristan to other children who are also adopted from the same countries, although this too is important. I realized that when Kahleah was four she thought everyone with brown skin was adopted. We had taken her to a large Latino Community Fiesta in Montreal. She looked around and said with big eyes, "This is the biggest adoption picnic I have ever been to in my whole life!!!" That statement opened my eyes!
It was a wonderful opportunity to sit down and discuss adoption, birth and different types of families. She began to become aware at that point that in that particular situation, at the fiesta, Mommy and Daddy were minorities! We were white! Kahleah, Tristan and everyone else were different shades of brown! Cool!!!!
I was so proud watching them dance and play with the other children from the Latino community. As much as my kids are accepted, valued members of "our" community, I was well aware of the fact that I wanted them to feel a part of and comfortable in the Latino community. Right now, they don't feel "different" in either community.
Like many families with "minority" children, we don't have the choice of where to live, because of a job situation. We make the point to drive a distance once or twice a month to attend fiestas, Latin American restaurants, concerts, etc. The children love these outings now ... maybe when they are a little older they will reject this, but the seed of interest is planted.
We also decorate our home, not just the children's rooms, with artwork and handicrafts from Latin America or with a multicultural theme. We have piles of adult and children's books on multiculturalism, Guatemala, Colombia, adoption, etc. We have also made friends with families who have immigrated to our area from Latin America. I have learned so much from these people. They take great pride too, in taking my children "under their wing".
We visit Kahleah's school to talk about Guatemala. She participates and beams with pride. Of course, everything we do is age-appropriate.
I hope I have shared a few ideas to help instill cultural pride without being a fanatic. Let your children take the lead. If they roll their eyes and say, "Not this again!", cool it ...
Copyright 2004 Leceta Chisholm Guibault, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Post-adoption Helper No. 4, February 1998.
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