Cross-Cultural Adoptions Raise Sensitive Issues

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

Adopted children who are of a different race or culture from their parents have additional issues to consider.

Children adopted from Asia, for example, may be viewed as Asian, not Asian-American. It is important to help children feel a sense of pride in their race and culture. That, in turn, will become a positive part of their identity.

The color-blind, 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. An ideal time to talk about culture is between ages 3 and 5. A growing list of special storybooks can help. The goal is to help your child learn about his or 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. Encourage your child to share  interests in music, sports, and other activities, with peers. This will 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. Your child will likely be more interested in his or her origins at a later time.