By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), produces a guide for promoting adoption during Adoption Awareness Month (which is November). In its guide NACAC defines racism as "discriminatory behaviour or thoughts directed against other races based on the belief that one race is superior to another. It refers not only to social attitudes toward non-majority groups but also to social and power structures which oppress, exclude and limit the potential of such individuals and groups".

The guide explains how racism starts small, and then can grow like this:

• Subtle bias—stereotyping, jokes.

• Prejudice and bigotry—ridicule, slurs, name-calling, scapegoating, ostracizing.

• Discrimination—harassment, social exclusion.

• Violence—threats, vandalism, desecration, terrorism.

• Extreme violence—arson, assault, rape, murder.

Confronting others

NACAC suggests how you can confront prejudice in others:

• Describe the person's behaviour in non-blaming language. Use concrete terms; be specific and clear; avoid reference to motive or intention.

• Express your feelings. Use "I feel" followed by a feeling word; stay calm; be as specific as possible.

• Indicate how the behaviour affects you.

• If the relationship is ongoing, i.e. peer or teacher, request a future behaviour.

Helping the kids

We can also help our children deal with racism. Share these tips with parents, teachers and other caregivers.

Validate. Listen to and respectfully address child's questions and fears. Acknowledge and accept that children of all ages feel pain, intimidation and anger when faced with racism. Help them feel safe and supported so they can share their questions and concerns.

Depersonalize. Explain that racist comments are ignorant generalizations, not personal attacks. They are more about the speakers rudeness and cruelty than the child's differences.

Externalize. Teach children to recognize stereotypes and racial remarks, and express how it makes them feel to be the target of them. Intense emotions are less confusing when there are words to describe them.

Rehearse. Inform the child that it's difficult for almost everyone to know what to say in response to ridicule and insults. Practice with your child the language you would like her to use. Go through role-playing exercises to help your child feel less disturbed by such incidents and more comfortable to respond in a calm and automatic fashion.

Defend. Confront harassers. Children need to see you protecting their racial identity. This elevates their feelings of pride and safety, and helps them learn to protect themselves, younger siblings, and other classmates from harassment.

Report. Help children report incidents to authorities, and make sure authorities see that the problem is not that your child is "too sensitive".

Educate and celebrate. Share information with other parents and friends about lifestyles, landscapes, rituals, leaders, achievements, language, history, dress and food of a particular country. Compare cultures. Emphasize similarities: although outward appearances vary, people are very much the same inside.

These tips would also work very well for adoptism, for example when teased about being adopted.



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.