My son, Teddy, is starting Pre-K 4 at a DC public school this fall. It’s his first year going full-time, and I’m already starting to think about which cartoon backpack to buy and whether he’ll have grown out of his size five trousers by the time he’s getting dressed for that first day. But I’m also preparing him to respond to the one question I know he’ll get: Why are you black and your mom and dad are white? Teddy was adopted. My husband, Mike, and I brought him home when he was six weeks old, and we’ve been fielding some form of that question from kids at the playground since he could walk. Up to now, the query has always been directed at us. My little guy has never had to stumble through an answer himself. Before he takes his first step into a classroom of kids who likely resemble their parents—or at least share their skin tone—we want to coach him through some potential conversations. And while we’re talking with our rising pre-kindergartner about how to satisfy the curiosity of his peers, here are a few tips to help you answer your child when they come home asking about the classmate who has a totally different skin color than his mommy.
Keep it simple. As with all challenging topics that we’re not always prepared to delve into with our kids, don’t answer more than your youngster is asking. By all means, if they have multiple questions, keep the dialogue going, but often a brief answer to their initial query satisfies them. For younger children asking why a new friend has skin the color of chocolate and his mommy is more the color of a peach, you can simply say that all families look different. Sometimes even “That’s how God made them” will suffice. For older children, you can dive into greater detail, explaining how adoption works and pointing to the biblical character Moses, who was adopted.
Keep it positive. As you converse with your son or daughter about my son’s story, use positive language, keeping in mind that several words and phrases that used to be common in adoption parlance have been changed because of their perceived negative tone. For example, at one time, people said of an adopted child that his real family was unable to keep him so they gave him up for adoption, but now we say that my child has a birth family that was unable to care for him and give him the life they envisioned, but they loved him enough to find a family who could and placed him for adoption with us, his forever family. Adoption is born of tragedy, but it’s a wonderful example of God redeeming pain, bringing beauty from ashes (Is 61:3).
Keep it honest. When your preschooler asks why his classmate has darker skin than his daddy does, answer without hesitation and as truthfully as you know. Be simple but forthright. If you’re not sure of an answer, be candid about that, too. Encourage your child to ask the classmate. He may decline to answer, but it’s never wrong to ask. Adoption can be intimidating to talk about when you’re not familiar with it, but don’t shy away from it. Remember, adoption is also God’s plan for redemption! I pray that our story can help pave the way for you to discuss with your kids the amazing story God’s writing with their lives.
As I take my son—and now my daughter—to the playground, I’m seeing more and more transracial families that look a lot like mine. Some are blended families, some are multiracial couples with kids, and some are adoptive families. I’m so grateful to be raising my children in an area where multi-hued parents and children are becoming commonplace. Maybe next year, your son or daughter will have seen so many kids who aren’t the same race as their parents that you’ll have had this conversation long before they see mine. But until then, give simple, positive, honest answers when your child asks why his classmate Teddy is black, but his Mommy is white.
Sara Kruger is a stay-at-home mama to two littles, but she loves not staying home with them as much as possible, instead taking them out to explore all her adopted city has to offer. She also enjoys running, reading, cooking, and eating, and learning how to cook healthier. A recent discovery is whole wheat blueberry pancakes, which are now a regular morning staple. Sara attends the Lincoln Theatre location with her family.