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Cross-cultural adoptions raise sensitive issues

Pimples. Braces. Dating. Finding your way through the teen years can be challenging, to say the least.

When you're an adopted child of a different race or culture from your parents, there are many additional issues to consider.

For example, like it or not, children adopted from Asia may be viewed by some as Asian, not Asian-American. It is important to help your child feel a sense of pride about his or her culture and race. That, in turn, will become a positive part of his or her identity.

The colorblind, culture-blind view that love alone can conquer all isn't realistic, experts say.

Here are some ideas on how to make your child's cultural background part of your family life:

  • Start early. Between ages 3 to 5 is an ideal time to talk about culture. A growing list of special storybooks can help. The goal is to help your child learn about her heritage.
  • Go beyond dolls and festivals. Dressing your child in a sari, dining on enchiladas, or attending Chinese New Year celebrations aren't enough. Family talks about culture can help. But it's vital that children make friends with other children who share their heritage.
  • Balance differences with similarities. Shared likes of music, sports, or personality traits aid bonding and help counter any "singling out" of your child.
  • Make friends with parents who share your child's heritage. Kids can see how another family deals with the race issue.
  • Tap into universities. Programs offer calligraphy, martial arts, ethnic dance or music, and language classes.
  • Consider a family heritage trip. It can be a life-changing eye-opener for all family members.

If your child seems to reject learning about his or her culture, don't push it. He or she may be dealing with issues of growing up, like adolescence and separating from parents. There will likely be a time in his or her life when you can support a renewed interest in the child's country of origin. If your child is overtly resisting your efforts at learning about his or her heritage, the child may need to assist with this important process at a different time. 

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