“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Family culture is unique and special for most. But for an adoptee, it was a saving grace. For me, traditions helped me form foundational and lasting bonds. Being an adoptee, I had a unique set of needs, but none more intense than the need to belong. Growing up, I always felt proud of my family’s unique culture. But one that I can’t overstate is the importance of diversifying your family traditions.
In the case of adoption, in particular, the identity of your son or daughter will be shaped by their roots, just like any child. However, the feeling of not fully belonging in either community can create a sense of difference or “otherness.” For me, this led to confusion and additional layers of loss. I often describe the layers of separation in transracial adoption as a “third culture experience.”
How Does a Third Culture Experience Relate To Loss and Closure in Adoption?
Third culture kid refers to a child raised in a culture different from the culture their parents were raised in. Regarding adoption, the parallels help you understand what your son or daughter may be going through–and how to provide support. The third culture dynamic creates a layer of separation from a typical first culture experience. Often, the result is a feeling of dislocation. What is an adopted “culture” other than a layer of separation? Of course, loss and closure extend beyond adolescence, but no time in life is more formative than this period.
Hear me out here! Although the weight of these experiences presents a challenge, they do not at all take away from the beauty of adoption. Quite the opposite, unpacking these nuances help us understand how to support our children better as they navigate life’s challenges. Sure, this is true for most adoptees, but the level of intensity can vary from person to person. For me, that need was always very strong. I was chasing belonging long before I realized it, I was floating, and I wanted to “feel” grounded. To cope with being different, there are some strategies that can help provide tools to navigate these unique challenges, as well as help provide meaningful closure. I’ll give you a hint– family, and tradition have a lot to do with it!