Take that (adopted) kid away from his culture, please!

Adoptive parents sometimes assume children understand where they are coming from (don’t steal, don’t hit, be nice, etc.) Conservative parents tend to think these guidelines are universal, but orphanages have their own subculture, just as a birth country has a culture. Habit and survival trump conscience and many times government trumps or replaces God.- Positive Adoption: A Memoir

Orphanages have a culture. Homes have a culture.

“Children placed into an orphanage shortly after birth receive little one on one care. No matter where in the world the orphanage is located, this early placement can affect a child’s development and create attachment issues.

Whether the abuse and/or neglect occur in utero or after the child is born, the results may be similar.”-Parenting the Hurt Child 24ea3-img_0976

Homes with neglect have a culture. Abusive homes have a culture.  Alcoholic homes have a culture. Stable homes have a culture. Communities have a culture.

Culture- the behavior and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group. (dictionary.com)

Before you close out this post, read a bit further- let’s talk about the culture that some children come from and decide whether we want to continue it or not.

  • Neglect- the culture of neglect says, “You do not exist!” (Dr. Karen Purvis)
  • Abuse- the culture of abuse says, “You are not worth anything!”
  • Hunger- the culture of hunger says, “There will never be enough!”
  • An Institution- the culture of an institution says – Communism
  • Alcoholism- the culture of alcoholism says, “You never know what’s coming next, the good guy or the bad.” Anxiety. Unrest. Hypervigilance.
  • War- the culture of war says, “You will never be safe!” Fear. Torment.

Obviously, I’m not talking about celebrating Chinese New Year or St. Nicholas day or whatever traditions or holidays your child’s birth country celebrates.  I am saying, take a moment and ask what they celebrated or if they did at all. We think of culture as visiting museums, attending concerts, going to a play or state park. Many children from hard places (whether adopted domestically or internationally) have never done any of those things. Their culture has been survival.  Foraging for food or if they are fortunate -playing soccer with a tennis ball in the halls of an orphanage (true story).

I asked my son Gregory (21 years old now, had just turned 6 when adopted) what sort of culture he remembers of the museum-art-play-field trip sort while in the care of the orphanage. NONE. He said there were a few field trips with the local school, but he and brother Damian skipped them, choosing instead to ride around town with the orphanage’s bus driver. Probably the most of that sort of culture those kids ever got.

I remember the first field trip we took the kids on (while still in Poland).  Damian and Gregory were glued to the rail at the front of the bus, leaning over as far as the bus driver allowed, drinking in every scene and asking questions. Questions. Questions.

So, before you slap that ethnic costume on your child (and I’m not saying not to) find out what sort of culture they experienced, if any. And then make sure they have the culture of security, of felt-safety. Of constancy. Of knowing there is food there for today – all day- and tomorrow too. Let them know their belongs are not communal property.

Before you decide to continue your child’s culture, find out what it means to them first. Does it mean connection? Does it mean disorganized? Does it mean hunger? Does it mean stealing-to-get by? And then…… start building a new foundation. A new foundation of trust.  Then… you can celebrate.

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