Doing Culture, Part 2

In direct answer to the questions I’ve been hearing about embracing birth culture, and which I posed in the previous post, I would say this.

Why do it? Because this heritage is part of who your kid is and giving up that heritage wasn’t something they chose to do. Of course, our son is being raised in America but he will likely always been seen as a “hyphenated” American. They deserve to know what the first part of that hyphen means. There is a cultural commonality among ethnicities and our kids deserve to have some idea what those commonalities are. Another “why” is because it’s a way of showing your child that you embrace “all” of who they are. I’ve heard adoptees say that when their adoptive parents are critical or negative about their birth culture, or even indifferent, the adoptee feels like a part of them is being rejected.

Is it really important? For some kids, it might not be important. But it seems likes the majority of adoptees who are speaking out have expressed the need to have some connection to their birth culture and that ethnic community. It helps them as they process who they are and where they fit in the world.

When do you start? I would like to say it’s never too late, but I’m not sure that’s true. I think the early the better because then these things become a part of who your family is, instead of something new and awkward you’re trying to make work.

What do you do? Start with what your family is interested in. Do you love music? Find music from that culture that you love. Is art your thing? Then begin learning about art from that country. And I think language is very important as it is one of the biggest separators for adoptees.

When do you let your child take the lead? I think it’s a balance. As the parent, you may have a better sense of what’s going to be important down the line, meaning that you might insist on continuing something that your child wants to quit. I think many adoptive parents feel uncomfortable doing this, but we do it in many other areas of our children’s lives. Would our kids keep going to school if we didn’t make them? Or what about playing an instrument? In some things it’s fine to let your child take the lead, but I don’t think parents should shy away from saying that some things are nonnegotiable. (Yes, I’m sure that parents of teens are laughing at the wisdom of the parent of a 6-year-old. Admittedly we haven’t crossed this bridge yet but this is what I think right now.)

How much is too much? Until a couple of days I would have said that there’s no such thing, given that our kids are growing up in America. But I’ve changed my mind. I think it would be too much if you, as the parent, insisted that everything your child does or is interested in is related to his/her birth culture. (I’ve been accused of this based on this blog but remember this blog only deals with our adoption journey, not our whole lives.) Your child doesn’t have to do a presentation on his birth culture every time there is an international day or food festival at school. Every book he reads doesn’t have to be about that country. It’s OK for our kids to have other interests and activities. Embracing culture doesn’t mean that every aspect of their lives revolves around that culture; it means that you’re making that culture a part of your family’s daily life in loving and respectful ways that will help your child figure out who he is as he grows.

But my child doesn’t want to be seen as different? What I’m about to say next is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to embracing birth culture. DO IT AS A FAMILY! This, I believe, is the best way to keep your child from feeling different or singled out. Learning Korean culture, customs, and language bring our family together. They are things we share and quiz each other about at the dinner table. Even when our son attends Korean school by himself, which is something we try to avoid, we all learn from his homework. Our son is the only person of Korean descent in our family, but embracing Korean culture doesn’t separate him or make him different.

People think our family is “hard core” when it comes to embracing Korean culture and it must be a lot of work. But honestly, it’s not. It’s about consistency and building on the things we learn. I’d like to be further along with our language learning and hope to step that up in the near future. But mostly we’re doing things we love to do as a family–listening to music, watching TV, eating yummy food–all while learning about an important part of our son’s heritage.

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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.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
Spy Girl
Tae Gu Ki
2009 Lost Memories

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2worlds1familyblog at gmail dot com

It’s a Small World After All

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