Understanding the Adoptee-Consider These…….


GRIEFBefore our first child was born, I read a lot of books on parenting.  I read what to expect when the child was a baby, when they were two and so on and so forth.  I don’t know who writes all those books I read, but they apparently didn’t parent a child like the one we had!  Parenting is a process.  Most of my friends read books too but then you kinda figure out, that those books are for generalizing.  They are not concrete facts that every kid will do and be when the book says.

There is also an entire different set of ‘rules’ for adopted children.  Even those who were adopted as infants such as our kids.  I was ignorant and really thought nurture would trump nature and we live happily ever after, because I was going to be a perfect parent and not make any mistakes….HA!

Recently I came across a book that has given me new insight on parenting for the adopted child.  Of course, I treat all my kids the same as far as fairness, they all have chores and expectations for respecting people but I really didn’t understand how painful it would be, a kind of emptiness that some could have from the unknown side of where they came from.  I’m starting to understand more.  And I’m realizing it’s harder on me than I prepared for.

Below is a bit of insight from the book “Twenty Things Adoptive Kids wished their Adoptive Parents Knew”

Loss:  The very act of adoption is built upon loss. For the birth parents, the loss of their biological offspring.  For the adoptive parents, the loss of giving birth to a biological child, and for the adopted child, the loss of birth parents and feelings of being rejected.

How can you help your adopted child with loss?

*Acknowledge the reality of adoption, from the first day if you can.   From day one, my kids just knew they were adopted.  Each has a scrapbook that explains how we got them and when and a picture of the day they were placed.

*Create a safe environment in which your child can express their feelings.    Hailey expresses her love for her bio mom to me and I hug her tightly when she is sad and misses her. We talk about her openly with judgement but she knows the facts about her placement.

*Celebrate differences between biological and adopted family members. All of our kids look like they belong to my husband and I and Kalle even gets told she looks like me and she replies, “I don’t know why, I’m adopted!” But we do talk about possible talents their bio parents have that they have too.

*Be sensitive to adopted child’s need for a tangible connection to his biological past.  Hailey has a picture of her bio mom on her desk she also has a blanket that belonged to her bio mom.  She and Kalle both have letters from bio family members.

*Respect the adopted child’s need to consider reconnecting with birth family someday.  This is something that I’ve grown to accept.  All of our adoptions were closed by choice.  Hailey’s could be open if we were willing, but having two other kids who are not in contact, I don’t think it would be a good idea. Our 15 1/2 year old is eager to have some closure about her bio mom. The contract we made in 1998, was at 18 years old, the file would be open.  It’s coming fast!

*Validate the fact that your family has been touched my adoption and special challenges.  I will be honest.  This is hard for me.  I wanted the Mayberry/Brady Bunch Family.  I wanted kids who had a few traits like me, those that liked school and were hard workers and were respectable to adults and outgoing wanted to be their best all of the time but we didn’t get that.  Our adopted kids are hard.  They constantly bicker and fight.  And they fight with each other……(did you get that?! ) Some of them have poor health, mental and physical.  One is as wonderful as they are terrible! Do I believe they are like this because of adoption?  NO! I believe they came this way.  I believe my husband and I stood in a pre-mortal line that had a sign that said “Challenging” and chose this life for ourselves.  Of course we don’t remember doing it and we are kicking ourselves now ….(Actually, John says I stood in the line and he was trying to drag me away but it was too late because I was up next for the assignment:))

Something else to consider:  Birthdays may be difficult for the adopted child.  What DOES a birthday represent for the NON-adopted child?  It’s a happy time with cakes and parties and balloons built upon the foundation of being welcomed into the world.  Now consider the adoptee’s birthday.  It represents loss, the day he lost his birth mother and all that was familiar.  It was not only his birth day, but his loss-day.  Or for an older child, he may have memories of birthdays in the past with a whole different group of people that he misses and loved.

Recently, I learned that birthdays are very difficult for one of my adopted kids….and I don’t mean your normal run of the mill, bratty kid on their birthday kind of kid (I’m sure all of you moms know what I mean!) She is depressed and doesn’t even want to celebrate.  Days before her birthday she has told me not to worry about her birthday and she doesn’t want me to make her a cake or a big deal out of it.  But I ignore her and do it anyway, but this year, she actually confessed to me that she hates her birthdays and told me because it is a reminder of the loss she feels.

Almost every day is hard with her.  She has many triggers that set her off, and sometimes there is no bringing her back around to just moody, which she is about 75% of the time. But I will continue to plug away and be there for her.  That’s what we moms signed up to do-be there for our kids!


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