Tuesday's Answers: Maintaining Our Children's Culture

Lori asked a great question for this week’s Tuesday Topic:

I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about race and adoption. I think adoption gives a wonderful opportunity to see the world from a different perspective – the perspective of another culture! I would love to hear from your readers how they incorporate their adopted children’s culture in their family life. How do they affirm the country/culture and teach their children about it?

One issue we have in this regard is that our children are from India, a culture that involves Hinduism in a significant way. Since we are a Christian family and desire to teach the girls our values – how can we incorporate, celebrate, and teach our girls’ (and soon our son as well!) culture in a way that is honoring and respectful to their country of origin, but still teaching them our beliefs? It gets tricky!

I inadvertently posted this question at a time that caused it to get lost amidst other posts; I’m still experimenting with timing. However, I did get three replies and I will add mine. There is much more that can be said about this, so if you would like to add your comments, please do.

Here are this week’s answers:


I think children should learn about ALL the religions of the world. Such as: “Jews believe V, Buddhists believe W, Christians believe X, Hindus believe Y, Muslims believe Z, etc.” As parents, we should educate ourselves about this very important topic. Others’ beliefs should not be belittled as that is modeling discrimination to our children. Kids should be allowed to make their own decisions about religion without being coerced.Delete

Blogger Mamita J said…

What a great question.

We adopted our daughter from Guatemala. One of the blessings that came from a long, difficult adoption is the opportunity we had the opportunity to visit the country 4 times and spend about a month in the culture. We fell in love with the people of Guatemala and the natural beauty of the land. We also experienced some of the very worst that any culture has to offer, so we have a realistic view of her birth country.

To me, culture is so much more than food, clothing, language, and traditions, although they are part of it. For our daughter, her culture includes things like smaller, more intimate personal space, hard and careful work, smiling in the face of incredible hardship, and graciousness towards non-Spanish speakers. 🙂 We can just pull so much positive out of the way Guatemalan people are.

We have a box of souvenirs from our travels. We have Guatemalan art and crafts in our home. We have scads of pictures of the country and it’s people. We have friends that are Hispanic. We eat lots of chicken and eggs. We speak very highly of the good things about Guatemala. We also speak realistically of the bad stuff.

As far as how to incorporate cultural things that are religious based…You need to look for the Truth within the religious tradition. If you have a necklace with the image of the god of water, point out how beautiful and intricate the workmanship is and how Jesus gives us living water, if only we love Him. Everything in this world points to the One True God in one way or another, whether it’s what’s wrong or what’s right about it.

Blogger Signe said…

For our family the most important thing about keeping our children’s culture is to make sure they love Ethiopia. We are trying to instill in them an appreciation for the rich culture of their roots. We try to incorporate Ethiopian food into our menus. We have Ethiopian music on our ipods. I will be teaching them Ethiopian history, and observing some of the more significant Ethiopian holidays.

Because religion is a central part of any culture it is a good time to teach our children about the religions of their home country.

Keeping our adopted children’s culture is a very tangible way to deepen the culture of our entire family. We are growing in our understanding of who our children are, and the people that we have joined. It is a blending of stories that makes us all a part of something bigger than what we started with.

Thank you for these great answers. When I first read the question I thought to myself, “I’m not doing a good job at this, how am I going to answer?” I was thinking about all of the things I don’t do to maintain culture, such as big holiday celebrations. As I considered it more I realized that although we may not do the “big” things, Ethiopia is part of our daily life and conversation.

To the best of our ability, we have open adoptions with all four of our children’s families in Ethiopia. We have met family members of each of our children and we talk about them in the midst of our days. Honeybee lived at her orphanage for eight years, so we talk about the children, the staff, and life there. We have photos of our travels and of family members that we all love to see. I h
ave plans to print and frame a collection of them.

In our home we have Ethiopian decorations, my favorite being the three crosses hanging on the wall of our dining room. I serve bread in Ethiopian baskets I bought in the rural market in Soddo. We wear Ethiopian clothes, especially the girls who love their dresses. Last week at church I was surprised to see Little Man wearing his traditional Ethiopian shirt. One of the girls had gotten him dressed and I didn’t see what he was wearing until we arrived. I often wear an Ethiopian shawl to church or when we are going out. I love the colors and bought several on our last trip. I also wear an Ethiopian cross necklace on most days.

Honeybee loves listening to Ethiopian music. We hope it will help her reclaim her Amharic and are looking for additional ways to refresh her memory. She lost her language very quickly, but now that one of her friends from Ethiopia is being adopted by our dear friends, she is motivated to regain her fluency. If you have suggestions, please send them my way.

When Sweet Pea lived at home she became quite good at cooking Ethiopian food. I haven’t carried the torch quite as well, but I need to and I have some recipes that I plan to try. We do, however, always keep berbere in a shaker and it is liberally applied to many foods. Our closest Ethiopian restaurants and markets are in Seattle, 300 miles away, but when we have the time and money, we like to visit. On our last trip I bought injera and froze it so the children can eat it when they like, especially when I serve a stew or soup that is reminiscent of Ethiopian food.

Our children came from a Christian background that we have expanded upon. If they were from a religious background that was different from ours, we would use it as an opportunity to teach about world religions and why we believe what we do. It is important to be respectful of our children’s heritage while also being truthful about why we could not embrace that belief system. Religious beliefs have consequences and our children should be taught to clearly discern that.

Thank you once again. I will post this week’s Tuesday Topic this evening and I look forward to seeing what you all have to say.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Staci
    November 3, 2009

    I never saw the Tuesday Topic before, but I wanted to add that there are a few adult intl adoptee bloggers out there that address these topics and how they felt growing up and their current connections to their birth culture. there is good reading to be found at http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/

    She has insights on race, being raised in a white family, visiting her cirth country as an adult, advice for adoptive families. I find another view point helpful.

  2. Jan J.
    November 3, 2009

    My girls are from China, and at 12-1/2 and 12-3/4 they very much love and appreciate their culture/birth country. I believe a large part of that is how much they have always seen ME appreciate China and things Chinese. They frequently see a book of mine open open that is related to China, fiction and nonfiction, and fine me listening to Chinese music.

    I remember one adult Korean adoptee saying – "The Korean things in our family were all in my room, all for me. The other members did not share them so I did not feel we were connected." That made a big influence on me.

    While we are Christians, we learn as much as we can about many cultures and religions so that we can respect and appreciate all peoples, but we talk about them in relation to what we believe and why. We talk about how China is imperfect in many ways but so is America and every other country. There is much we can learn from the Chinese as they can from us. My goal is for my girls to be comfortable with their heritage and with other Chinese people and to be proud of where they came from. So far, that has been a success! I wish we could do more – particularly learn Mandarin, which my older daughter has lost – but it is a difficult language and life is too busy, but I do what I can.


  3. lorismusings
    November 3, 2009

    Thank you for those who submitted their ideas!

    By the way, I didn't mean to say that we ignore the Hindu religion that permeates much of Indian culture. It IS a good opportunity to explain those beliefs versus what we believe from the Bible. It is just tricky sometimes.

    I wish there were family connections for my girls, but that is not possible with the way India handles abandoned children. There is absolutely NO family information. Rarely do they even know where or when they were born.

    One thing that has been great for us is having contact with families who have adopted Indian children. Our girls love to get together with them and I enjoy that they have a kind of Indian family in those relationships. Our girls even have four children living close by that were in their orphanage and who they were friends with. That is extra special and helps keep memories of their homeland in their hearts.

    Mamita, you are so right in culture being more than just food, clothing and language. My girls have that circular Eastern way of processing things that my linear mind finds fascinating!

    Signe, I loved your comment about how learning and incorporating our children's culture really enriches our lives in the process.


  4. Kids Music
    November 5, 2009

    Your blog is like an encyclopedia for those who want to know more about this. Thanks for the interesting information.


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