A Window of Opportunity?

Today we had our first Korean class for adoptive families in our city. It’s a class run by Korean American teens as a way for adoptive families to make connections with each other and Korean American families, as well as provide role models for our kids. And it was AWESOME!

I’ve been looking forward to the class for two weeks now and sometimes when you build something up, you’re disappointed. But not so today; it lived up to every expectation. I love seeing my son in the midst of others who look like him–he thrives in those situations and today was no exception.

But lately I’ve heard from a few other families who’s kids are early to mid-elementary school age that their kids are resistant to culture and talk about adoption. And it’s made we wonder if we as adoptive parents have a window of opportunity in which to bring culture and adoption talk into our families so it’s just normal.

These families admit that their children have had limited exposure to their birth culture, language, and other Korean Americans. And that, while adoption talks have happened in their families, they didn’t start early. Now, as the parents are feeling more like these things should be a regular part of their family’s life, the children seem to have no interest, or are even hostile toward the subjects.

Counter that with a couple of other families I know who have, from the beginning, placed an emphasis on the family (all members, not just adoptees) learning the language, celebrating and observing birth culture, talking about adoption, and being around other Korean Americans. The 10-year-olds and 7-year-olds in these houses enjoy learning Korean and doing Korean things. They’re comfortable around other Korean Americans and seem comfortable talking about their adoption and birth families.

Is it personality? Or is it how the parents have approached these subjects? Nature? Nurture? A little of both?

It’s probably a little of both. But I do believe that the earlier you make birth culture, diversity, talks about adoption and race, part of your family, the more comfortable everyone will be with the subjects. I’ve heard many parents say, “If/when my child shows an interested in Korean things, language, etc., I’ll be happy to provide with them the opportunities they need. I’ll just wait for them to take the lead.”

But it seems to me that by the time they might be asking (7, 8, 9 years old) the door may be closing. They may feel that it’s not acceptable to talk about these subjects because their parents have never shown an interested. Or they may feel that to show an interest will only make them stand out from their family.

I believe another key is for everyone in the family to participate–singling out the adoptee to participate in events or learn the language just further separates him and shows again that he’s different from his other family members. Growing up I always hated it when adults seemed to expect more of me than they did of themselves. And I’ve tried to remember that in parenting.

So often you hear that you really parent by example–you can say something all day but if you’re not doing it, the words have little impact. I think the same logic applies to adoption issues, birth culture, and language. You need to set the example by doing those things yourself; by showing they are important to you.

It will be interesting to see what our son is like in three or four years. We’ve taken a very proactive approach to our parenting but only time will tell if the example we’re trying to set for our son will make a difference in how he feels as he grows.

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
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2009 Lost Memories

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