I often receive requests for advice from readers. Most times, I’m able to share something from my personal experiences that is helpful. The other day, I received the following e-mail message and I was unsure of how to properly respond:
My husband and I are white and our son and daughter are mixed race – aboriginal and black. They came to live with us as our foster children when they were 5 and 6 years old and we were able to adopt them five years ago. We realized being raised in a white family, in a 99% white community would be challenging for them, so we made a strong effort to build pride in their heritage. Because they were raised by their aboriginal mother for the first part of their life, and their features are more aboriginal, that is the part of their heritage that we focused on. We missed the mark. We moved to a new city a year ago and our son, who is now 13, is going through a really bad time. Our son’s new friends classify him as black and have stereotyped him with negative attributes. Unfortunately, our son has accepted to live out these stereotypes. Drugs, stealing, school suspensions and physical threats have become a major part of our lives. [We believe that our son] feels ashamed of his black heritage, and combined with feelings of rejections from his birth parents is causing self-esteem and self-hatred issues. What should we do? (message has been edited for clarity and length and to protect privacy)
I offered her this advice:
I would recommend that you and your husband sit down with your son and discuss his feelings in a non-threatening way. This is easier said than done because getting a 13 year-old boy to express himself is difficult under any circumstance. Seeking counseling is definitely a step in the right direction. You need to understand why he believes that he needs to reinforce negative stereotypes. You didn’t mention anything about your daughter’s behavior or actions. How is she adjusting? She should probably be included in the counseling sessions also. I think the key to reaching your son is to focus on strengthening your relationship so that he knows you love and care for him regardless of what anyone else thinks. A parent’s love can work wonders.
What advice would you have given the reader?