Bicultural Kids

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Raising children of a race or culture different from their own means parents must make deliberate choices of the sort birth families seldom have to think about. A veteran adoptive father of several children of different races describes the experience as a "roller coaster of exaggerated parenting." Experts have several recommendations for parents who willingly climb aboard that roller coaster to smooth out the ride for the family:

--NAME Incorporate your child's birth name into his or her American name, and use it with affection. Many parents choose to use their child's birth name as a middle name.

--NEIGHBORHOOD If possible, live in an ethnically diverse area where your children will see people of various races and cultures. Some parents hire baby-sitters from their children's homeland who can share native stories and customs with the kids.

--ACTIVITIES Have lots of art, artifacts, books, toys and music from your child's birth country in your home. Learn as much as possible about your child's native holidays and celebrations, and incorporate some of these into your family traditions. Keep up with major current events and sporting events from your child's native culture. (Korean-American adoptees say they felt lucky having two teams to root for in the recent World Cup soccer matches.)

--PEOPLE Seek out positive role models in the community and the media whom the children can identify with. Help them get to know similarly adopted kids. Many communities offer culture camps where children can be together and learn about their native culture in a fun environment.

--TALK ABOUT RACE You may be blind to your child's differentness, but the rest of the world isn't. Talk about race, and acknowledge any difficulties your child may be having, even if he doesn't bring them up.

--CELEBRATE YOUR OWN ETHNICITY Whether you are Swedish, Scotch-Irish, Native American, Italian or a mixture of many cultures, show your children that everyone comes from somewhere — that every culture has its own language, foods, music and customs.

--CONSIDER A TRIP TO YOUR CHILD'S HOMELAND If your child expresses curiosity about her country of origin and an interest in seeing where she came from, plan a family trip. Many agencies offer special tours for adopted kids and their families.

Sarah Po-Yeong Boyd, 14, enters ninth grade this year in Eagan, Minn., where Koreans are a distinct minority. But she bridges her two cultures with ease, listening with equal pleasure to the Korean pop group Baby Vox and American folk-rock singer Michelle Branch. Sarah says she is grateful for the connection her parents have helped her forge with her home country — for the culture camps, Korean dance lessons, time spent with other adoptees and a trip to Seoul two years ago with a Korean girlfriend and their dads. "For once we looked like everyone else and our parents stood out — that was really cool," she says. She is aware of the complications of growing up adopted and Asian in a white community, but she values the differences too. "My Caucasian friends know who their biological parents are, and I don't. I have a different point of view. I know things about myself. Their whole heritage is American. Mine is both Korean and American. My parents have taught me that being Korean, adopted and American is the best thing in the world, and that's what I believe."

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