We have five children from China, ranging in age from 2 to 6. While none of them have come to us with a desire to explore their heritage, we have taken it upon ourselves to at least crack open the door to their roots. In a small way, embracing not only our children, but where they come from.
We don't take Chinese classes. We don't have lots of Chinese friends. Currently, bound by time and monetary constraints, that just isn't possible. But it is possible to introduce, in small ways, pieces of China into our children's lives. And we have found that when we crack open that door, more often than not, our children run through, delighted at the opportunity to learn more about their "China".
We have numerous Chinese books around, all age appropriate for small children. This is one of our favorites... we have enjoyed trying the traditional Chinese recipes and referring to it for child-friendly stories about Chinese Holidays. Tonggu Momma has some wonderful book ideas for children adopted from China on her blog here. So far our children have enjoyed reading books based on China, but nothing like they love seeing China... in action.
They love this DVD. I actually bought it a while ago. Initially, it met with mixed reviews, no one really disliked it, per se. But no one loved it. When Vivienne arrived home, with her love of singing and dancing, I decided to pull it out again. And wow, do they love it now. Every single one of them. And they haven't stopped watching it (off and on, a mom does occasionally need a break) ever since.
In fact, even when they are not watching the video, I find them humming or singing the songs on the video and sometimes, even several of them join in together to sing one of the songs from the DVD. None of us are quite sure what, exactly, they are singing, but they most definitely are enjoying themselves. And I love that one of the reasons they enjoy the songs so much is because they are Chinese. I hope they always feel proud to be Chinese. Because although they are American, they are and always will be Chinese, too.
We have also interspersed Asian-inspired art and items purchased in China displayed all around our home. We want them to know that we have not only embraced them as our children, but that we have an admiration and love for China as well. Our daughters, both 6 years old and home for 4 and 5 years respectively, especially love having pieces of China in their every day lives. They enjoy looking over their 'China pictures', the gifts we purchased for them in China, and the books, clothes and jewelry we bought for them while there. They have mementos of China safely tucked in special spots around their room. And having access to these items occasionally opens up an opportunity for us to discuss big issues, and to use heavy words like "orphanage" and "birth parents" more naturally, without having to force a conversation. We don't want our children to hear 'adopted' or 'orphan' for the first time at school, out of the mouth of another child, and not know what it means or how to respond. We want them to learn about their beginnings softly. Gently. At their own pace. And in the safety of our home, surrounded by people who love them.
Each family needs to decide for themselves how they will seek out ways to help your Chinese child express a connection to their roots, if and when they choose. But I encourage adoptive parents to be intentional about offering at least a few ways that their Chinese child can safely express a connection to China without having to ask. We have been very pleasantly surprised that even at a young age, and even though it was parent-initiated, how excited our children are to embrace their "China".
I'd love to hear other ways that you encourage this connection in your home!