I’m up against the nap-time clock today, so just gonna keep this short and sweet! I attended our agency’s periodic adoption support group meeting this week, where there was a fantastic panel of adoption experts, adoptees, birth moms and adoptive moms graciously willing to share their stories. It reminded me of the adoption dichotomy and how it can be so joyous and beautiful, but so hard and heart-wrenching at the same time. I ONLY almost cried five times. Here are a few nuggets of insight I took away and wanted to share.
Remember the 7 Core Issues of Adoption
I bring this up first because I don’t remember seeing this before in my adoption journey, but these issues really apply to everything else I heard in this meeting. It is definitely something worth reading (if you haven’t) and revisiting (if you have). It’s honestly a bit heavy, so don’t overdo it, y’all, but just take a glance and be mindful! Here is a handy, one-page printout.
Rethink Your Rhetoric on Birth Parents
Thus far, our relationship with Baby C’s birth mom has been positive, and even if it wasn’t, we have so much respect regarding the decision of adoption that I can’t imagine speaking negatively about it to C. I often think of how I will explain it all and frame it for her so she understands the love, as well as the challenges, that surround her story. But the circumstances may not always be or stay positive in an adoption situation.
So here’s the message put in a way I hadn’t heard before: Your child came from a birth mother and, therefore, is a part of this person. If birth parents are “bad,” in your child’s mind, they came from something “bad.” It’s our job as adoptive families to “reframe” the situation in their minds, so do what you can to keep the story and your attitude about birth families as positive as possible.
Another big message from birth moms on the panel was to be confident that your adopted child loves you, and don’t let fear keep you from helping them build relationships with their birth families. The agency experts shared that adoptees are often especially curious about their siblings. Be mindful of your child’s need to build their identity, and how the missing pieces of the puzzle (biological family history and connections) can affect them.
As one adoptive mom on the panel, sitting next to her teenage son and his birth mom, said, “A good relationship with the birth family is a true gift; develop it and be grateful that there are extra people around who love your child as much as you do.”
Proactively Provide Your Adopted Child With Coping Mechanisms
I get questions WEEKLY about Baby C’s red hair and where it came from, so I’m pretty used to explaining our story, and actually love sharing it. How to explain it to her when she’s old enough to understand is a different story. So I can’t imagine how it might feel for her to one day be asked and have to respond to questions herself. I thought this was a brilliant point that came up in the panel, to consider whether your older adopted children may need help explaining their story (or even a younger child .. think family trees at school, etc.). Consider helping them through a few different scenarios and talking points, and just giving them the “permission” to share as little or as much as they feel comfortable, if asked.
Also be sure your adopted child knows they can ask YOU questions without fear of hurting your feelings as an adoptive parent. You may not have the answers, but just having an open door to asking is important. If you are someone of faith, you may even consider reminding your child that they can always give their questions to God if they don’t feel like giving them to anyone else.
These may seem like small gestures, but they are all mechanisms you can easily provide your child as they grow up and cope with the issues surrounding adoption.
That’s what I took away, folks! It was helpful for me to hear and/or be reminded of these small things in this busy life.