A Challenge for Transracially Adoptive Parents

I often hear from adoptive parents that they are trying their best to learn about how they can support their child’s needs – through reading books, blogs, and articles, by attending workshops and culture camps – they’re really trying. Yet all too often, when I ask who is writing, posting, or hosting these events, I hear, “Other adoptive parents.”

I once wrote a blog in which I asked the question, “If you want to know what it’s like to be an astronaut, do you ask the astronaut’s mother?” And I’m truly curious…would you? Or would you assume that she doesn’t genuinely understand the experience of being an astronaut? She might have more information than the average person, but she wouldn’t be able to give you the first-hand knowledge that offers true understanding about the experience of being an astronaut.

And so now I ask you: “If you want to know what it’s like to be an adoptee, do you ask the adoptee’s parents?” Considering the astronaut analogy, it seems slightly absurd, right? Of course, adoptive parents know much, much more than the average person about the adoption experience, but their role will never provide them with the experience of being an adoptee. So why is it that so many adoptive parents seek the knowledge of other adoptive parents when trying to best serve the needs of their child?

I have a thought about why this happens. While I have a lifetime of experience as an adoptee, I have only a couple of years of experience as an adoptive parent (my experience as a psychologist falls somewhere in between). And let me tell you – being an adoptive parent – being ANY kind of parent – is a tough, courageous, soul-searching, soul-bearing, never-ending quest for betterment. To learn better, to know better, and to do better. And it’s daunting. So, so daunting. We want to be the best parents possible, and how gut-wrenchingly painful is it in those moments when we realize that we could’ve done better for our children?

Who are the people likely to tell us we could have done better? Those who have first-hand knowledge. So, maybe…just maybe…the reason that so many adoptive parents seek knowledge from other adoptive parents about how to meet their child’s needs…is fear. Fear of learning that we may have fallen short, or completely missed the mark. Fear of having to acknowledge these mistakes to our children. Fear of learning from someone who may not be as encouraging, reassuring, or forgiving as another adoptive parent who shares our journey.

But should that fear stop adoptive parents from going to the source, and learning from the adult adoptees who are willing to share their invaluable knowledge? Consider this a challenge for betterment for the sake of your children. Step outside of your comfort zone, be willing to acknowledge where you’ve fallen short, and challenge yourself to learn – to TRULY learn – how to best meet your child’s needs.

Consider attending TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION BOOTCAMP: FROM COLORBLIND TO COLORBRAVE on April 18th – make it the next step in your quest for parental betterment. Take one day to learn from adult transracial adoptees about their experiences, and about the ways you can best support your children around issues of racial and cultural identity, development, and pride. To learn more about this event or to register online, visit: www.growbeyondwords.com/for-parents.

About Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker

Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist who provides mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work. She is the author of the "Adoptees Like Me" book series.