How Can I Intertwine My Culture With My Adoptive Child’s Culture?

The most romantic hopes for adoption envision a happy family that celebrates diversity;  two sets of histories, traditions, and values that meld together and compliment one another in a unique and inspiring way. Whether you adopt your children at birth or adolescence, honoring their culture is a supreme way to instill in them a positive identity and sense of purpose. Here are some fine ways to intertwine your child’s culture with your own:

1. Birthdays and Holidays 

Can you get a recording of “Happy Birthday” from your child’s home country? It is always fun to sing both versions for your child’s special day, letting her know she is a unique fusion of two exceptional worlds. Winter holiday traditions from African cultures include carols by candlelight, Malva pudding, and gifts for the less fortunate. Indian cultures celebrate the season with stars on the outside of their homes, and adoptive families of Eastern European kids can observe St. Nicholas Day on December 19 with shoes full of candy.

2. Food, Glorious Food

I’ll never forget the day my internationally adopted kids picked up a jar of pickles in Stop-N-Shop and excitedly exclaimed, “It’s Polish!” You don’t have to go to a speciality shop or ethnic neighborhood to find cuisine from your child’s birth culture, although those are great options as well. Asian sauces and candy, South American spices, and Eastern European treats like pierogies are available at most major supermarkets and immediately give kids a comfortable connection with their home country. Online shops like Amazon and Asian Food Grocer carry seasoning kits and teas that add simple cultural gusto to your home cooking.

3. Heroes 

Adam Griffith, a kicker for the University of Alabama football team, was adopted from the same region of Poland as my children and has a similar story of abuse and neglect by his birth family. I tell my kids about his success as an athlete because he had to overcome many of the same challenges that they do, such as self-defeating attitudes and the language barrier, as they journey on towards their dreams. Stories of cultural heroes can be found all over websites and social media, as well as kitschy ethnic bookstores and online superstores.

4. Festivals and Feasts 

It may involve a short drive, but cultural events like the International African Arts Festival, the Indian Festival USA, and the New York State Chinese Lantern Festival put kids in touch with role models, artifacts, costumes, and performances that will inspire and delight them. Piquing kids’ interests when they are young is the best way to ensure that they will continue to identify with and take pride in their nationality when they are grown and contributing to the world in meaningful ways.

5. Rock On

When my husband and I attended a Polish Festival before we adopted our kids, we picked up a CD of Polish children’s songs accompanied by some polka beats. The whole first summer our children were home, we would ride around the neighborhood with the windows down, playing the Polish songs about brushing your teeth and learning to count at full volume. While it may not have scored me points with my neighbors, it made my kids really happy, and reminded them of joyful times in their home country that could continue in their new digs.

6. Be An Example

Kicking up your feet for an accordian dance or insisting on another plate of empanadas are little things that are noticed by your child. Showing pride, enthusiasm, and grace are the best ways you can model delight in the uniqueness of your heritage and encourage continued confidence.

Rebekah Yahoves is a writer, mother, and music teacher from Long Island. In 2016, she adopted three school-aged siblings from Poland at the same time. When she isn’t constructing casseroles or tuning violins, Rebekah likes to go on tea binges and read.