Shannon, it’s very nice to hear that you’re trying your best to understand his needs. What a huge question! I could write 500 pages in answer, but I won’t. :)
I was a domestic adoptee. Hopefully, you’ll find some IA’s to give you better advice for your particular situation. I didn’t have the cultural issues, although I had no idea where I originated. I had absolutely no knowledge of my heritage or ethnicity. That was very difficult. As it happened, I was raised about 50 miles from my family of origin, and my elementary principal and his wife, my preschool teacher, were my distant cousins. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was nice to know that I was already familiar with my extended family.
The thing I needed most from my adoptive parents, aside from food, clothing, and shelter was respect. Sometimes they were very good about it, and other times, they were a little more tempted to objectify me. I think that’s common with adoption. The language that was used in those days was a little less objectifying than the language used today, but the temptation was still there to create an alternate reality. I was fortunate in that my adoptive mother was always very honest and open with me about what it meant to be adopted. She did not pretend that I should be pleased with my adoption. When she spoke of my natural mother, she called her my mother. There was no “tummy mommy” or “you grew in my heart” sort of thing. She recognized my mother and her rightful place in MY heart then expressed her hope that I would consider her my mother as well. She put the ball in my court. Modern adoption language does not do that. It does not recognize the right of the adoptee to consent to the adoption. And because she showed me respect, I have undying respect for her.
As for where my parents went wrong in the same aspect, sometimes explanations were very cliche. They sometimes used the standard adoption language of the day such as, “Your mother loved you so much she gave you away.” Of course, there was the two parent justification as well as her age. (She was 17.) None of those statements recognize the emotional tie between mother and child. They reduce the role of a parent to one of cold, calculating decisions based on social circumstances. The child becomes an object to be dealt with. That’s not a great worldview to instill in a child.
Again, I have no advice about the cultural difference since I didn’t know my culture as a child. I can only tell you that if I could not speak to my mother due to a language barrier, I would be very, very disappointed.