You see your child struggling, but you’re at a loss. There’s too much silence. A quietness where there should be animated conversation. More than anything, you want to see him or her smile with the carefreeness that only adolescence can offer. You ask yourself, “What can I do to help?”
Don’t worry! Adoption Choices of Arizona is here to get you through this difficult time. We know that you’re bursting with love and understanding. By familiarizing yourself with the top 5 things adoptees wish you knew, you’ll be better able to understand your child’s silence. No longer will you misunderstand the thoughts and feelings he or she leaves unsaid.
- They Want, No Need, to Make Sense of Their Story
Finding ways to craft personal narratives is an essential component of the lifelong process of healthy identity development. The field of psychology calls this concept narrative identity, which is defined as the internalized evolving story of the self that each person crafts to provide his or her life with a sense of purpose and unity. Adoptees have important personal stories that they need to learn and understand. For instance, their adoption journeys.
Not only should you be forthcoming with your child’s adoption story, but you should also offer as much detail and transparency as possible. While there are almost certainly difficult parts, his or her journey to adoption holds an essence of strength and resilience at its core. Healing will occur with repetition of the story. This repetitiveness allows the experience to become integrated into your child’s system as a whole, allowing him or her to be at ease.
- They Feel Outcast
Adoptees often feel as if they don’t belong. Many have a hard time fitting in with their adoptive families. Being adopted creates a sense of being different in many ways. It could be the differences in their physical features compared to those of their family members, or simply the undercurrent of truth to their situation. They may even feel different from peers who are being raised in biologically related families. Whatever the reason, feeling outcast is harmful to an adoptee’s well-being.
If your child hasn’t broached this topic yet, consider bringing it up first! Oftentimes, the world is not a wonderful, embracing place, and your child could be suffering silently. Like everyone else, he or she strives to find connection and acceptance.
- They Worry about Hurting Your Feelings
It is incredibly common for adoptees to feel a sense of guilt and responsibility for their adoptive parents’ feelings regarding their birth family. In fact, they often avoid talking about their adoption, searching for their birth family, and expressing an interest in their personal history. This withholding is done for fear of hurting their adoptive parents’ feelings.
Remember this: your child loves you. But he or she may have a deep-rooted fear that you’ll abandon him or her upon hurting your feelings, even if you’ve always been reassuring to the contrary! If your child expresses an interest in his or her adoption or birth family, it doesn’t mean that he or she loves you any less.
- They Need Space to Mourn their Birth Family
It’s very important that adoptees know that their adoptive parents will allow them the time and space they need to mourn the family they’ve lost. If an adoptee seems distant, it may very well be that he or she is feeling grief and is unsure of how to handle it. Grief sharing allows adoptees to move more steadily towards healing. Being heard and feeling seen within their grief is a powerful medicinal.
Please, don’t feel threatened by this! Your child’s need to mourn his or her first family doesn’t take away from the love he or she holds for you. Ever. Be sensitive, be compassionate, and, most of all, be open to listening. No adoptee should feel guilty for grieving the loss of their first families.
- Adoption Is a Lifelong Process
Adoption is not a one-time legal process. It’s an ongoing experience, a lifelong journey. Adoption does not end when a document is signed or a legal course of action is finalized. While it is true that the legal part of adoption may be completed, the living part of adoption is only just beginning. This is an important distinction!
To say that your child’s adoption is over — to place it in the past — denies him or her the continuation of discovery. How can he or she explore the important landscape of self when you have, with all good intentions, deemed it over? As your child understands the details of his or her story, makes sense of feelings and triggers as they relate to adoption, he or she can cultivate resilience and learn to respond rather than react — a skill that offers more freedom of choice in day to day actions and provides an overall sense of well-being.